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The Concept of Nature in Marx

“Of unexpected popular relevance today when a whole new generation is beginning to ask fundamental questions about man’s relationship to nature.” –New Society

In The Concept of Nature in Marx, Alfred Schmidt examines humanity’s relation to the natural world as understood by the great philosopher-economist Karl Marx, who wrote that human beings are ‘part of Nature yet able to stand over against it; and this partial separation from Nature is itself part of their nature’. In Marx, industry and science are the mediation between historical man and external nature, leading either to reconciliation or mutual annihilation. Schmidt explores this tension between man and nature in Marx and shows how his understanding of nature is reflected in the work of writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch.

Reviews

  • “An important and well-document consideration of the importance of Marx’s materialism. Schmidt’s work can be recommended as the best treatment of this much misunderstood topic.”
  • “Refreshingly free from dictatorial intellectualism … An exciting scholar.”
  • “Of unexpected popular relevance today when a whole new generation is beginning to ask fundamental questions about man’s relationship to nature.”

Blog

  • Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: In and Against the Human

    In General Intellects, I offer condensed versions of twenty-one leading thinkers across a range of fields. but I did not include figures in anthropology, as I am still working my way through reading in what's going on there. I have been finding some exciting stuff. Elsewhere, I wrote about Anna Tsing and Achille Mbembe. Here's my report on the work of Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, author of the brilliant Cannibal Metaphysics, including notes on a recent collaboration with the Brazilian philosopher Déborah Danowski, called The Ends of the World

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  • Primate Colonies and the Extraction of Value

    A controversial landmark in science studies, Donna Haraway's Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science was first published by Routledge in 1989 and reissued by Verso in 1992. 

    "How," Haraway asks at the book's opening, "are love, power, and science intertwined in the constructions of nature in the late twentieth century?" 

    What may count as nature for late industrial people? What forms does love of nature take in particular historical contexts? For whom and at what cost? In what specific places, out which social and intellectual histories, and with what tools is nature constructed as an object of intellectual and erotic desire? How do the terrible marks of gender and race enable and constrain love and knowledge in particular cultural traditions, including the modern natural sciences? Who may contest for what the body of nature will be? These questions guide my history of the modern sciences and popular cultures emerging from accounts of the bodies and lives of monkeys and apes.


    Taking primatology as a "storytelling craft," Haraway reconstructs the history of studies of primate behavior in the United States through a series of interlinking essays in cultural studies, the history of science, and feminist analysis. In the essay below, from the book's first section — "Monkeys and Monopoly Capitalism: Primatalogy Before World War II" — Haraway locates the discipline's foundation in a larger process of colonial extraction. 



    Detail from Fig 2.2 in Primate Visions: "A Monkey-College to Make Chimpanzees Human," from International Feature Service Inc., 1924. Robert M. Yerkes Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. 

    Before the Second World War, non-human primates were already the subject of international western interest, with research stations and conservation areas fostered by France, Belgium, Russia, Germany, and the United States. Literally and figuratively, primate studies were a colonial affair, in which knowledge of the living and dead bodies of monkeys and apes was part of the system of unequal exchange of extractive colonialism. Primate bodies grounded the discourses that rested on a flow of value from the lands where monkeys and apes lived to the lands where they were exhibited and textualized. Nonhuman primates were a fundamental part of the apparatus of colonial medicine. Part of the ideological framework justifying this directed flow of knowledge was the great chain of being structuring western imperial imaginations; apes especially were located in a potent place on that chain.

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  • Happy Birthday Karl! A Marx Reading List to celebrate the day of his birth.



    Although born in the early 19th century, the relevance of Karl Marx's ideas for analysing 20th and 21st century capitalism, as well as for understanding the political and economic struggles and changes of his own day, remain vital and essential.

    Here, Verso present a Marx Reading List for that world-changing historical thinker, born 196 years ago today.

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