by Ian Angus
It’s two years since I published my last Essential Reading list. Since then I’ve received many suggestions for additions, and many new books have been published. It’s time for an update.
As before, the list does not pretend to be complete. I could easily triple the number of titles without covering the field, but I’ve arbitrarily limited it to 20 books, which forced me to drop some very good books, including some that were on previous lists.
My selection criteria are subjective: these are books that I have found particularly valuable, that I refer to frequently, and that I often recommend to others. I make no apology for including two of my own books — if I didn’t think people ought to read them, I wouldn’t have written them.
I’ve limited the list to books that are in print and readily available. I’ve avoided academic texts, and books that aren’t clearly Marxist. There are many good non-Marxist books, of course, but this is a Marxist reading list!
An Ecosocialist Starter Kit
Each person approaches ecosocialism with a different background and different interests. A basic book for one might be too difficult for another. With that caveat in mind, these are books that I often recommend to people who want an introduction.
1. Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, Monthly Review Press, 2011
2. Martin Empson, editor. System Change Not Climate Change: A Revolutionary Response to Environmental Crisis. Bookmarks, 2019
3. Ian Angus. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System Monthly Review Press 2016
4. Victor Wallis. Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism. Political Animal Press. 2018
5. Chris Williams, Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. Haymarket Books, 2010
6. David Klein and Stephanie McMillan. Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (pdf)
7. Michael Löwy. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe, Haymarket Books, 2015
Marxist theory and ecology
These are essential books but they are not easy reading. They require careful attention and study. Each investigates Marx’s views on the relationship between society and nature from a different angle —and as Marx said somewhere, there is no easy road to knowledge.
8. Paul Burkett. Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective 2nd edition. Haymarket Books, 2014
9. John Bellamy Foster. Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature Monthly Review Press, 2000
10. Kohei Saito. Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy. Monthly Review Press, 2017
11. Ian Angus and Simon Butler. Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis. Haymarket Books, 2011
12. Hans Baer. Democratic Eco-Socialism as a Real Utopia: Transitioning to an Alternative World System .Berghahn Books, 2018
13. Mike Davis. Planet of Slums Verso, 2006
14. Ashley Dawson. Extinction: A Radical History OR Books, 2016
15. Martin Empson. Land & Labour: Marxism, Ecology and Human History Bookmarks, 2014
16. John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth Monthly Review Press, 2010
17. Hannah Holleman. Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of ‘Green’ Capitalism. Yale University Press, 2018
18. Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams. Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation Monthly Review Press. 2017
19 Andreas Malm. Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming Verso, 2016
20. Daniel Tanuro. Green Capitalism: Why It Can’t Work Fernwood, 2014
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh
Since entropy was mentioned, my older son and I have an in-depth discussion of this subject as it relates to our energy future in our book “The Earth is Not for Sale: A Path out of Fossil Capitalism to the Other World that is Still Possible”. The path is to ecosocialism culminating in solar communism, highly contingent on multidimensional class struggle. Forward to the Solarcommunicene! Our book website with updates, reviews is http://theearthisnotforsale.org. Ian Angus’s review is at https://climateandcapitalism.com/2018/10/01/ecosocialist-bookshelf-october-2018. To add to the list: Robert Biel’s “Sustainable Food Systems: The Role of the City”, Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro’s “Ecology, Soils and the Left: An Eco-Social Approach”, Andreas Malm”s “The Progress of This Storm” and Peter Frase’s “Four Futures”.
All 4 of the works mentioned in the comments above belong in this sort of list, although regular readers are aware that you don’t find Moore’s writings “particularly valuable.” I would also recommend Mann and Wainwright’s Climate Leviathan; Paul Edwards, A Vast Machine; and Bonneuil and Fressoz, Shock of the Anthropocene.
*Robert* Biel is the author of The Entropy of Capitalism.
I agree with Billy, Jason Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life is essential. As is his and Raj Patel’s History of the World in 7 Cheap things. A very interesting take on how capitalism has become a “World- Ecology.”
Joel Kovel’s The Enemy of Nature
Yes! Brilliant primer.
River Biel’s The Entropy of Capitalism which is by far the best political economy approach to political economy I’ve read. Also it deals with thermodynamics.
Why no “capitalism in the web of life” by Jason W Moore?