Editorial

 

The feminist movement, after its decline, if not eclipse-especially in Europe- during the '80s, has been showing signs of revival during the present decade. This is mainly due to the massive growth of unemployment (an inevitable outcome of neoliberal policies), which hit women particularly hard, and the interconnected rise of neoconservatism and its attacks on women's rights. At the same time, the growing ecological crisis has had significant effects on feminist thinking, as the wide-ranging debate among feminists on the links between radical green thought and feminism shows. Society and Nature devotes the greater part of this issue to the dialogue between eco-feminists and their critics -a comprehensive dialogue that comprises the main current feminist movements- as a first contribution to the relevant debate. In the second part, a wide-ranging dialogue develops between T. Kalomalos, M. Bookchin and T. Fotopoulos which well transcends the original cause of it, i.e. marxist method (S & N vol. 1 no. 2), and encompasses the crucial questions of the present crisis of the left and the ways to overcome it.

Greta Gaard and Lori Gruen provide an overview of the various approaches used by ecofeminists to understand the interconnected forces that operate to oppress women and nature. They see these approaches not as competing but as complementary in describing a significant historical shift in world-view: from one conceptualizing women and nature as sacred to one which sees them as inferior and subordinate objects to be dominated. It is therefore obvious that for the authors, as they explicitly point out, "the current global crises are the result of the mutually reinforcing ideologies of racism, sexism, classism etc" that interact to create complex systems of oppression. However, the question that arises is whether the roots of the present crises are just (or mainly) ideological, as the article implies, or, instead mainly institutional. The answer to this question is crucial because once we accept the central role of the institutional structure of society, then the need arises for a concrete analysis of the causes of oppression in terms of this structure, and from then on the interpretations of the oppressing forces become competitive again. Thus, liberals and environmentalists would find nothing fundamentally wrong with the institutionalised structure of present society, deep ecologists would underplay the role of the social structure altogether and emphasise instead the role of values, ecososialists would stress the importance of economic in-stitutions, social ecologists would concentrate on the role of hierarchical structures and so on. In this context, the unity-in-diversity amongst social movements, that the authors suggest, becomes, at least, problematic, given the fundamental incompatibility of the traditions from which the various movements draw their basic principles.

Val Plumwood explicitly locates the problem of gender relations within the framework defined by the concepts of domination and hierarchy. Starting with a comprehensive critique of all versions of ecofeminism for their built-in dualistic constructions, she argues that the various dualisms (human/nature, male/female, culture/nature, reason/emotion, civilization/ primitive, mind/body, mental/manual etc) have simply "naturalized" the domination of nature, of women, of race and class. This is so because, as she puts it, dualism is not but "a way of construing difference in terms of the logic of hierarchy". She therefore calls for a thoroughgoing and critical ecofeminism that would transcend both liberal as well as cultural feminism and would call into question the dualist constructions of gender identities as well as of the concept of the human. Such an ecofeminism, she stresses, should involve a non-hierarchical reconceptualization of both nature and human identity, as well as of the relationship between them. In this sense, Plumwood concludes, ecofeminism would be a highly integrative feminism, one that could claim to be a third wave or stage of feminism, moving beyond the conventional divisions of feminist theory.

However, although transcending dualisms should perhaps be the most sig-nificant aim of ecofeminist theory, the question arises, as Janet Biehl shows, how the content of these dualisms should be interpreted. It is ob-viously contradictory, as well as regressive, to associate women with a mystified notion of "nature" and men with Western culture and then counter-pose women/nature to men/culture. It is contradictory, because the main legacy of Western culture is neither capitalist "development", that has brought humanity at the edge of an eco-catastrophe, nor the "liberal oligarchy", that poses as democracy. The principal Western legacy is the autonomy tradition, an important element of which is the women's liberation movement itself. Furthermore, it is certainly regressive to return to religious, mystical or irrational beliefs (which constitute the central element of the culture of heteronomy) and to discard as "masculine" all Western culture, including its liberatory legacy, throwing thus away the baby with the bathwater. To the extent therefore that ecofeminism is debited with such a problematique, it is rightly criticised as regressive by the author.

Chaia Heller shows how the nature/culture dualism, which has historically spawned a constellation of other dualistic splits, could be transcended by making explicit the nature philosophies underlying the patricentric culture, as well as liberal and cultural feminism. Thus, the patricentric culture was based on a "necessitarian" view of nature that sees it as passive and bound exclusively by necessary, inextricable physical laws, which, in turn, depend on dualistic modes of thinking for their own ar-ticulation. At the same time, both liberal and cultural feminists failed to transcend dualism because they also share the dualistic view that culture stands in opposition to a necessitarian nature bound by natural law: for liberal feminists, culture is the realm of freedom, whereas for cultural feminists it negates a nature which abides by female natural laws. In contrast, a radical view of nature sees it as active and participatory, where culture and nature are not separate from each other but exist on a developmental continuum in which culture is the realiza-tion of the potentiality for subjectivity latent within nature. Finally, a participatory view of nature implies participatory politics, in contrast to the present hierarchical political structures which are legitimated by the hierarchical view of nature.

Mary Mellor, in a devastating, from a feminist viwpoint, critique of eco-marxism shows why the marxist categories are too narrow for the analysis of gender relations. fact , tha t  has  traditionally  led  feminists  to  adopt  the  much  broader  libertarian  concepts  of domination  and  hierarchy  instead  of  the  central  marxist  concept  of   economic  exploitation.  This  fact  is  also  reflected  in   Mellor' s  affirmation  that,  despite  the  best efforts of legions of marxist academics, a 'marriage' between Marxism and radical feminism has never been achieved. For the author, "the dominance of economic relationships in Marx and Engels' work was, to say the least, unfortunate given the importance of feminist analysis in early French and British socialism". What, of course, is "unfortunate" for Mellor (herself a socialist) is in fact another consequence of the "scientification", in terms of historical materialism, of the socialist project, that has drained it from its wider social dimensions and firmly embedded it within the logic of the patriarchocentric capitalist culture.

L. Susan Brown starting from a critique of 19th century anarchism, which was based on the outdated concepts of the "natural man" obeying "natural laws", attempts to develop a new synthesis by adopting a feminist-infused existentialism as the philosophical base of a modern anarchism. Finally, Chaia Heller, in a second contribution, shows the ecological and global dimensions of the radical feminism's body politic to conclude that an eco-body politics for the 1990's implies the crea-tion of an "ero-feminism", i.e. a feminism which aims at reviving the erotic in the sense of rediscovering our deepest and most rational desire for a free- from all forms of domination- and ecological society.

 

Takis Fotopoulos, Editor