5.3.1 Productivism vs. Environmentalism

Dr. Étienne Schmitt

In The Condition of the Working Class in England ([1844] 1969), Friedrich Engels developed an environmentalist critique of workers’ working conditions, denouncing pollution, noise and odor issues. Despite this work being seen as a precursor of green socialism, socialism developed according to a productivist doctrine that sought to increase the means of production through the exploitation of resources and the domination of nature. With the development of the environmentalist movement in the 1980s, several authors such as André Gorz (1987) have emphasized that capitalism cannot be ecological because it is based on the production of goods with an exchange value, while the environment has a use value. It is important to subordinate exchange value to use value in order to refocus production on social needs and the preservation of the environment. Eco-socialism is an alternative to capitalist and socialist productivism. At the convergence of a social critique and an environmental critique, it renews socialist thinking. If part of the left has remained productivist, certain political formations – including post-communist parties – have evolved towards eco-socialism, such as the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet – Sweden), Die Linke (Germany), Syriza (Greece), La France Insoumise (France), Podemos (Spain) and the Democratic Socialists of America (United States).


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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Étienne Schmitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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