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Across the zones of Southern monoculture and deforestation, the environmental impacts of agro-economic restructuring can be traced down to the level of the virion and the molecule. A case study of West Africa’s Ebola virus, responsible for over 11,000 deaths in the last three years, illustrates this epidemiological shift.
Socialize the Data Centres!
The leading iconoclast of Internet euphoria recounts his path from schooling in Belarus through training in Bulgaria to NGO work in Central Europe and fame as author of The Net Delusion in the United States. A radicalized view of the transformations required in the information infrastructures of the present for any egalitarian future.
Can ‘digital humanities’ recover from Thomas Kuhn’s before-the-fact critique—that no new ‘laws of nature’ will be discovered just by inspecting the numbers? Testing the limits of the approach, Moretti investigates whether data-crunching can falsify Hegel’s theory of tragedy.
The Critical Net Critic
Advances in information technology have generated both delirious boosterism and gloomy prognoses of computer-assisted decline. Rob Lucas engages with the sceptical current exemplified by Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, tracing its conceptual underpinnings and identifying its lacunae—political, economic, historical.
Academicians of Lagado?
Vast claims have been made for the application of Darwinian concepts—purged of biological determinism—to the study of societies. Kenta Tsuda offers a penetrating and original critique of selection theory, finding a paradigm with limited explanatory value and shaky conceptual foundations.
Darwin and After
A century and a half on from Origin of Species, what is the present state of evolutionary theory? Hilary Rose and Steven Rose examine current debates around epigenesis, ‘evo-devo’ and adaptation, emphasizing—contra the determinists—contingency’s role in biological outcomes.
Responding to Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot stresses the inadequacies of current governmental efforts to address rising global temperatures, and the need for targets to be set by science rather than political expediency. An attack on the cruelties of cost-benefit analysis, and a call for genuine ethical commitment to replace tokenism.
Building on Kyoto
A critical assessment of George Monbiot’s scheme for a 90 per cent cut in carbon emissions. Given the psychological grip of capitalist consumption patterns, and the forces blocking attempts to tackle climate change—fossil fuel lobby, heavy industry, airlines—what is the best strategy for environmental action? Can ambitious targets and moral exhortations bring any improvement on existing treaties?
Drawing on fieldwork in India, Kaushik Sunder Rajan analyses the mechanics of global pharmaceutical trials. The outsourcing of drug testing not as neo-colonial plunder, but part of a dual dynamic, under the aegis of ‘biocapital’: expropriation of Third World subjects, exploitation of medicated populations in the First.
Jacob Stevens on Steven Rose, The 21st-Century Brain. Complexity and plasticity of synaptic interaction, in a materialist challenge to neo-Darwinist models. Is it possible to account for the evolutionary heritage of the brain without compromising the autonomy of the social?
Julian Stallabrass on Sam Williams, Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software. The iconoclastic hacker who is challenging Microsoft’s dominion, using ‘copyleft’ agreements to lock software source codes into public ownership. Cultural and political implications of treating programs like recipes.
How to Love Nature
Soper is a humanist in the best sense. Her contribution to socialist theory, her commitment to the green movement, and her struggle as a feminist, are informed by a deeply considered notion of the human good, and one that seeks to keep up with the times. What is Nature? is . . . read more
The Royal Road: Marxism and the Philosophy of Science
What is a consequent Marxist view of the history and philosophy of science? Reference to the work of Marx and Engels (or even of Lenin) will not yield a satisfactory answer, although certain signposts are evident. For example, there is the famous observation on method in the Introduction to the . . . read more
Biology and Gay Identity
The last two decades have seen accelerated progress in the life sciences, especially molecular biology. On the back of this advance in knowledge, a wave of ideologists have hitched a free ride, claiming that social phenomena from alcoholism to homelessness can be explained in biological, even genetic, terms. The most . . . read more
Sterilization and Propaganda
Late in August this year, a message was widely broadcast by the international media. Filing their reports out of Stockholm, journalists from around the world presented their readers and viewers with the news that between 1934 and 1976, tens of thousands of people—more than 90 per cent of whom were . . . read more
Information as Gift and Commodity
‘The current phase of capitalist development’, says Gareth Locksley, ‘is one characterized by the elevation of information and its associated technology into the first division of key resources and commodities. Information is a new form of capital’,footnote1 and as such it undergoes a change of form: rather than being deposited . . . read more
Still Stirred by the Promise of Modernity
Ariel Salleh’s comment is revealingly angry and abusive; she challenges my environmental credentialsfootnote1 and my gender reflexivity; I am sexist, racist, masculinist and massaging ‘a defensive old-school socialist demeanour’. Unfortunately this leads her to a perverse reading of my paper, for example my statement that that not all things that . . . read more
An Ecofeminist Bio-ethic and What Post-Humanism Really Means
Aholocaust goes on among us: tomorrow at dawn, another ancient plant or bird will be extinct; nine-hundred million people starve;footnote1 dammed-up rivers run sour and parched soils crack open; continents swarm with environmental refugees; man-made viruses are unleashed; silently, an ozone hole and electro-magnetic radiation cull new cancer victims; oil . . . read more
Myths and Realities: A Reply to Cecile Jackson
The myths that Cecile Jackson identifies in her article in nlr 210 are that self-determination and freedom are better achieved through identification with ‘nature’ rather than separation from it; the utopian assertion of the superiority of subsistence economies and communal life; the rejection of scientific knowledge in favour of local, . . . read more
Cosmic Dancers on History’s Stage? The Permanent Revolution in the Earth Sciences
Early on the morning of 1 February 1994, President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the members of the National Security Council were awakened from their sleep by Pentagon officials.footnote* A military surveillance satellite had detected the brilliant flash of a nuclear explosion over the western Pacific. . . . read more
Man Bad, Woman Good? Essentialisms and Ecofeminisms
Can socialists, radical environmentalists and feminists from other traditions safely dismiss ecofeminism? In this paper I offer both a critique of ecofeminism and a modified defence. On the one hand, I argue, ecofeminism is riddled with essentialism, and open to all the philosophical critiques levelled at any position which attributes . . . read more
Radical Environmental Myths: A Gender Perpective
Environmental activism has reached high levels of public visibility since late 1994 when protests over the transport of live animals at Coventry, Shoreham and Brightlingsea attracted new supporters to the animal-rights movement, revealing the growth of Green politics in unexpected social corners and the changing content of Green activism. Public . . . read more
Political Ecology: Expertocracy versus Self-Limitation
Depending on whether it is scientific or political, ecology covers two distinct, though interconnected, approaches. I will begin by concentrating on the difference between their objectives, rather than their interconnectedness. It is important to make sure that the political approach is not presented as the ‘absolutely inevitable’ product of a . . . read more
'Win-Win' with Bruce Babbitt: The Clinton Administration Meets the Environment
For the environmental movement in America the allure of the Democratic ticket in 1992 was not Bill Clinton. His record in Arkansas was poor. Tyson, the chicken mogul, had fouled the state’s rivers with an enthusiasm equalled only by his zeal for Clinton’s political well-being. Not fifteen miles from the . . . read more
The Dead West; Ecocide in Marlboro Country
Was the Cold War the Earth’s worst eco-disaster in the last ten thousand years? The time has come to weigh the environmental costs of the great ‘twilight struggle’ and its attendant nuclear arms race. Until recently, most ecologists have tended to underestimate the impacts of warfare and arms production on . . . read more
Ecology, Socialism and the Mastery of Nature: A Reply to Reiner Grundmann
Reiner Grundmann’s ‘The Ecological Challenge to Marxism’footnote1 is very much to be welcomed as a well-argued and challenging contribution to a debate that is clearly quite central for the Left today. I think it is especially valuable for its defence of the metaphor of ‘domination’ or ‘mastery’ over nature, as . . . read more
The Crisis in Cosmology
Among the physical sciences, cosmology is distinctive: its domain is a unique and irreproducible system, the Universe; those who study it are inescapably immersed in the system; almost all of it is inaccessible to them; even on the accessible fragment there is almost no possibility of experiment.footnote1 At the same . . . read more
The Social Control of Science
Perhaps the measure of the current importance of science is the amount of space devoted to it in the Sunday papers. On that basis, it grades somewhere between holiday travel and fashion, a considerable improvement on any status it might have had only a few years back. Science and scientists . . . read more
Socialist Health Service?
More than any other creation of the post-war Labour Government the National Health Service has been regarded with veneration and satisfaction by those on the left. And indeed, confronted with the vicious medical anarchy which prevails in the United States, no generous person can fail to regard with some gratitude . . . read more
Health in a Sick Society
When we talk about health in society today, we consider its death-rate or the life-span of its members. When we talk about the provision of health we talk about it as a social service—something which can be added to a community if there are sufficient facilities, hospitals, drugs, scalpels and . . . read more
From Contradiction to Catastrophe
The constitutive claim of historical materialism, of the materialist conception of history, consists in giving an explanatory primacy to a social formation’s ‘material structure’—i.e. to its productive forces (over its relationships of production), to its economic base (over its superstructure). The central difficulties of historical materialism consist in reconciling this . . . read more
The Health Service Revisited
the national health service has existed now for nearly 12 years, and already it is hard to remember what being ill was like before. It is almost impossible today to awaken the imagination of the post-war young to what a frightful, unforeseeable blow a serious or prolonged illness was to . . . read more
Biology and the Crisis of the Human Sciences
The starting point of all radical reflection upon epistemology must be the recognition that in matters of philosophy we are still living in the 1930s.footnote* When I say ‘we’, I naturally mean, first of all, ‘we’ philosophers. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the fundamental problematics that continue . . . read more
What Is This Thing Called Chaos?
There is currently a great deal of excitement about the notion of chaos. Science writer James Gleick’s book on the subject has become a bestseller,footnote2 there have been numerous articles in the general press and programmes on television, and New Scientist ran an extensive series of weekly articles on the . . . read more
Balance of Life
The life of a human being cannot be totally described or defined by the detailed analysis of all the activities that are necessary for life. It is rather the sum of these activities co-ordinated in a delicate and beautiful way to form a unitary phenomenon which we call human life. . . . read more
Art and Biology
Iexpect that some who saw the poster for this series of lectures on ‘Art and Science’, organized to celebrate 150 years of the British Association, wondered what contribution to this topic might be made by someone associated with the Marxist tradition of writing about art, a tradition which has always . . . read more
A Critique of Political Ecology
As a scientific discipline, ecology is almost exactly a hundred years old. The concept emerged for the first time in 1868 when the German biologist, Ernst Haeckel, in his Natural History of Creation, proposed giving this name to a sub-discipline of zoology—one which would investigate the totality of relationships between . . . read more
Feyerabend and Bachelard: Two Philosophies of Science
In 1934 when Gaston Bachelard published his Nouvel Esprit Scientifiquefootnote1 and Karl Popper’s Logik der Forschungfootnote2 appeared few philosophers would have dissented from the view that science develops in a linear or monistic fashion, so as to leave meaning and truth-value unchanged, on the basis provided by common experience. Meyerson . . . read more