5.3.1 Productivism vs. Environmentalism

Étienne Schmitt

In The Condition of the Working Class in England(pdf) (1845/1969), Friedrich Engels developed an environmentalist critique of working conditions, denouncing pollution, noise and other issues. Despite this precursor work, socialism adopted during a long time 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 to refocus production on social needs and the preservation of the environment.

Figure 5.3. André Gorz (right) and his wife Dorine (left).

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 is still 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 - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2023 by Étienne Schmitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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