Bookchin, Murray 1921-2006

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Bookchin, Murray 1921-2006

(Lewis Herber)


See index for CA sketch: Born January 14, 1921, in New York, NY; died of heart failure, July 30, 2006, in Burlington, VT. Environmentalist, philosopher, and author. Coining the term "social ecology," Bookchin wrote political and philosophical books about the environment, which he felt was under siege by capitalism and society's hierarchical system. The son of Russian immigrants, who instilled in him his early leftist ideals, the young Bookchin was a member of the communist Young Pioneers from age nine to sixteen. As a teenager, however, he recognized the authoritarian nature of the communists and abandoned his early enthusiasm for them. As a young man, he worked in a foundry, and during World War II he served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Ft. Knox. After serving as a tank instructor there, he left the military and found work with General Motors, where he became active in the union. Many labor organizers were socialists or communists, whom Bookchin began to criticize along with the capitalists. He therefore adopted an anarchistic philosophy, while also embracing a growing concern for the environment. Bookchin concluded that capitalism, with its central aim of making profits and hoarding material goods, was a chief cause of environmental degradation. His theory of social ecology differed from other environmentalists in that it blamed culture, not innate human characteristics, for the destruction of wildlife, forests, and clean water systems. Publishing his thoughts in his 1962 book, Our Synthetic Environment, Bookchin used the pen name Lewis Herber to avoid right-wing personal attacks. Releasing Crisis in Our Cities (1965) soon afterwards, he was credited with spurring on the environmental movement, along with Silent Spring author Rachel Carson. In an effort to further educate people and promote his ideas, Bookchin cofounded the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont, in 1971, and the institution later became part of Goddard College in Rochester, Vermont. He lectured throughout North America, and from 1977 to 1981 was a professor at Ramapo College. Soon considered the leading philosopher of the environmental movement, Bookchin was also credited with inspiring the formation of the Green Party. After Crisis in Our Cities, he published books under his real name. Among these works are Toward an Ecological Society (1980), Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future (1990), and Re-Enchanting Humanity: A Defense of the Human Spirit against Antihumanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism, and Primitivism (1995).



Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2006, p. B10.

New York Times, August 7, 2006, p. A19.

Times (London, England), August 10, 2006, p. 63.