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The Theses on Feuerbach as a political ecology of the possible

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Abstract:

This paper argues that Marx's Theses on Feuerbach offer a tremendous and yet neglected resource for work in political ecology and the production of nature. Whilst not calling for a dramatic shift in the way in which such work is conducted, the paper shows how the Theses offer a firm and concise foundation on which to base the ontological and epistemological claims of work on the politicised environment. Ontologically, nature is a differentiated unity, best understood as sensuous activity or practice. This fits well with Smith's claims that nature is produced, whilst not limiting production to capitalist activity. Environments are thereby made up of everyday activity. Subverting the apparent anthropocentrism of this claim, the paper shows how (as Gramsci recognised) the Theses on Feuerbach have an incipient sense of the socio-natural. Post-humanist critiques of Smith's (humanist) production of nature thesis are thereby disrupted. Production realises a differentiated unity of socio-natural relations. Epistemologically, the paper demonstrates how the Theses push political ecologists to construct knowledge claims from practical activity. An ecological politics thereby emerges from the situated knowledges of different actors. Building on this, the paper argues that Marx's ‘notes to himself’ give us a sense of possible worlds and possible ecologies beyond the topsy-turvy one we have made in the present. Through the concept of praxis evinced in the Theses, a vision of the engaged scholar activist, committed to learning about the world through changing it (and vice-versa), emerges.

Keywords: epistemology; historical materialism; nature; ontology; political ecology; praxis

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2008.00842.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Surrey TW20 0EX, Email: alex.loftus@rhul.ac.uk

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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