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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: De Marx, de la nature et du développement humain

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand

On Marx, Nature and Human Development

Translated Tuesday 19 November 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

Marxism and sustainable development.

Marx was one of them. Not just that, but with Elisée Reclus, the geographer, anarchist, and man who coined the phrase “man is nature becoming conscious of itself,” Marx the philosopher appears, towards the end of the 19th century, as a precursor in ecological thinking. Better – he was not the die-hard productivist that he has been made out to be. And because people very often don’t know this, Roland Charlionet and Luc Foulquier open their work (1) with a reminder backed up with excerpts from his writings.

The authors had a lot of matter to think about. Charlionet is a doctor in natural sciences and worked for over 30 years at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM). Foulquier founded the radio-ecological laboratory of the continental waters of the Atomic Energy Commissariat (CEA) and headed the environmental service of the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

Both defend Marxist thought on ecology, which is rooted in the awareness that human beings, playing their two roles as producers and consumers, entertain a relationship with Nature that is mediated by labor. From this concept, and from contemporary social-environmental upheaval, the idea (adopted by the French Communist Party at its 34th congress in 2008) of human sustainable development was born.

Published in September, this work is intended to be the manifesto of this idea. The text sometimes adopts the lofty language of a besieged fortress. Nonetheless, it untangles the ideas – it unravels the ideas of production and zero-impact economics – and spells out, in erudite, philosophical, and yet simple terms, the society that human sustainable development proposes.

The book contains everything needed to open the debate, beginning with the affirmation of an ideology that substitutes environmental and social justice, and cooperation, for consumerist capitalism; an ideology that takes the sharing of knowledge, as much as the sharing of resources, as the basis for a new civilization.

(1) L’Être humain et la nature, quelle écologie ? Fondation Gabriel-Péri.

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