Eutopia Against Utopia.

Author:Burke, R.
Position:Green Politics Is Eutopian - Book review
 
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Green Politics Is Eutopian, by Paul Gilk, Wipf & Stock, 2007, 235 pp., ISBN 13:978-1-55635-776-3

The word "utopian" has different connotations to different people. To some it conjures up images of a realizable and desirable ideal of what human society might become. To others it suggests unrealistic fantasies which are unattainable delusions. In Green Politics is Eutopian Paul Gilk counterposes the two meanings as a framework for his discussion of matters of social reorganization. To the first meaning he ascribes the word "eutopian" and for the second he uses "utopian." A key insight of his work is that it is precisely civilization as it has existed for thousands of years that is "utopian" in the negative sense of the term. Green politics as he sees it demands that we turn from "utopia" to "eutopia" before environmental, economic and social crises destroy civilization.

Much of the intellectual framework for Gilk's essays comes from what he loosely terms the anarchist political tradition. He defines this as a current of thought that favors a decentralist and community based alternative to the capitalist world-system. Many of the writers which he includes in this category would probably not have considered themselves to be anarchists, and were advocates of much that the current anarchist movement might viscerally reject.

For example, in this category he places the work of Lewis Mumford. While Mumford was undoubtedly influenced by the work of Peter Kropotkin, a pillar of contemporary anarchist thought, he himself was an advocate of world government and saw centralization and decentralization not as mutually exclusive but as existing in a polar relationship in which the pertinent question was the proper balance between the two. Ironically, given his use of the word "utopian," much of the ideas that Gilk draws upon are in the provenance of what has often been termed "utopian socialism." His negative appraisal of civilization echoes the work of that wonderful surrealistic social prophet Charles Fourier, whom Gilk does not mention in his book. These terminological confusions and quibbles aside, Gilk unquestionably draws on the ideas of a number of social and economic thinkers with vital insights whose works deserve to be taken seriously by the Green movement.

In discussing the "utopian" nature of civilization Gilk reveals it to be based on an impulse to separate itself from and dominate nature, an act of hubris which inevitably entails its downfall. It...

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