Biro, Andrew 1969- (Andrew William Biro)
Biro, Andrew 1969- (Andrew William Biro)
Born 1969; married; children. Education: University of Toronto, B.A.; York University, M.A., Ph.D.
Denaturalizing Ecological Politics: Alienation from Nature from Rousseau to the Frankfurt School and Beyond, University of Toronto Press (Buffalo, NY), 2005.
Contributor to books, including Nature's Revenge: Reclaiming Sustainability in an Age of Corporate Globalization, edited by Josee Johnston, Mike Gismondi, and James Goodman, Broadview/Garamond, 2006, and Eau Canada: Governing Canada's Waters, edited by Karen Bakker, University of British Columbia Press, 2006. Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Dimension, Theory & Event, and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.
Andrew Biro is a political scientist whose research focuses on the social construction of scarcity and the roles that culture and ideology play in environmental politics, with a special emphasis on water issues. In Denaturalizing Ecological Politics: Alienation from Nature from Rousseau to the Frankfurt School and Beyond, Biro applies modern political theory to problems concerning human ecology.
The author points out in Denaturalizing Ecological Politics that various arguments about the category of nature have long been a bane to applying modern political theory to ecological politics. "Ideas of nature are of course not only highly complex and contradictory, but also deeply embedded, both individually and culturally, and they affect virtually every aspects of our lives," Biro writes in the book's introduction. "They are in fact the very definition of ideological. We do not simply choose a conception of nature the way we might choose a new car, by weighing the pros and cons of this or that option. Nor, assuming that we can take on a new conception of nature … is the process like trading an old model for a new one." The author goes on to note: "The choice is not a simple binary one …, but neither is it entirely an individual one."
In his book, the author looks at environmental issues arising from industry and a post-industrial society and at postmodern social theorists who take an antifoundationalist approach to issues involving nature. (Antifoundationalists discount that there is a fundamental principle from which to base inquiry or subsequent knowledge.) The author presents his argument that the best way to advance the ecological political theory is to avoid the wide-ranging debates over various conceptions of nature. In the process, he provides his case for a denaturalized rethinking of ecological politics based on modern thinkers, such as Karl Marx and Jean Jacques Rousseau. These thinkers acknowledge that humans are biologically a part of nature as a whole but that they are distinguished from nature historically because of their own self-consciousness, which leads them to view nature and the environment as outside themselves.
The author begins his book by discussing deep ecologists and their views of nature as something beyond society. Essentially, they view humans as an integral part of the environment and present nature as something that should guide human activity, especially as related to placing limits on human activities. The author then examines structuralist and poststructuralist social theorists who perceive the way humans view nature as arising solely out of ideologies reinforced by society. Writing in the book's introduction, Biro notes: "What is required is a way of talking about nature that is sensitive to the truth value of both of these positions, but that does not succumb to their logical or political shortcomings." Examining a wide range of texts, Biro presents his own theory that only by first fully understanding the complex relationship between society and nature can political and social theorists begin to straighten out the social processes and relations that are essential to move from a societal view of dominance over nature to a more liberating concept of human ecology.
Noting the author's "interesting and imaginative ideas," Mick Smith wrote in Canadian Geographer that "Biro's book is packed with important insights." Writing about the book's historical look at the social concepts of nature, Ted Binnema commented in the Canadian Journal of History: "This reviewer is not an expert on Rousseau, Marx, Adorno, and Marcuse, but Biro's analysis of their thoughts on nature appear to be sufficiently careful and sophisticated to be of interest to intellectual historians."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biro, Andrew, Denaturalizing Ecological Politics: Alienation from Nature from Rousseau to the Frankfurt School and Beyond, University of Toronto Press (Buffalo, NY), 2005.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 2005, Dave Bennett, review of Denaturalizing Ecological Politics: Alienation from Nature from Rousseau to the Frankfurt School and Beyond, p. 407.
Canadian Geographer, summer, 2006, Mick Smith, review of Denaturalizing Ecological Politics, p. 270.
Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2007, Ted Binnema, review of Denaturalizing Ecological Politics.
Choice, July-August, 2006, J. Simeone, review of Denaturalizing Ecological Politics.
Environmental Politics, August, 2007, John Barry, review of Denaturalizing Ecological Politics, p. 688.
Acadia University Political Science Department Web site,http://ace.acadiau.ca/polisci/ (July 15, 2008), faculty profile of author.
Globalist,http://www.theglobalist.com/ (July 15, 2008), brief profile of author.