Political activist Murray Bookchin dies

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(Host) Well known political activist Murray Bookchin is dead.

Bookchin was a long time Burlington resident and co-founder of the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield.

Bookchin never attracted a large following, but his many books influenced progressive thinkers around the world and helped give birth to the environmental movement.

VPR’s Steve Zind has this remembrance.

(Zind) Over his long life many political labels were attached to Murray Bookchin – all were identified with left leaning ideologies.

Daughter Debbie Bookchin says her father drew his ideas from many different sources and political philosophies.

(Bookchin) “His focus was on melding anthropology and social theory and philosophy and economics into a utopian vision that in many ways, I think defies a label.”

(Zind) Bookchin’s most significant contribution was to help create the environmental movement.

His 1962 book “Our Synthetic Environment” was perhaps the first to draw attention to the effects of pollution and environmental degradation and the call for the use of renewable energy. Bookchin coined the phrase “social ecology.’

(Bookchin) “He didn’t use terms like ‘global warming’, but he was pointing to fundamental transformation of our ecosystem. He was at least twenty years ahead of everybody else.”

(Zind) Stanley Aronowitz is an author and professor at the City University of New York. He knew Bookchin for forty years.

Aronowitz says Bookchin’s life-long political evolution from Communist to anarchist to libertarian made him a misunderstood figure.

(Aronowitz) “It is hard for somebody who is a dreamer, who is a utopian, and he was a utopian and who doesn’t accumulate a large mass following. I think he’s had tremendous influence. Much of it has been unacknowledged.”

(Zind) Aronowitz says Bookchin argued with those who he felt put nature before human beings.

Bookchin saw technology as a means to liberate people and enable them to become more involved in civic life.

He saw man’s relationship with the natural world as inextricably tied to people’s relationship with each other.

He condemned a capitalist system that he felt allowed the exploitation of people and the planet

In an interview last year Bookchin talked about capitalism and his belief that a world based on social ecology will someday prevail.

(Bookchin) “There’s only one issue that can go beyond that… one issue. It’s not feminism, it’s not workers rights, it’s not the proletariat, the vanguard, the most depressed class in history… it’s not things of that nature. It’s going to be ecology and people can’t see that by the way; it’s a long-range development. And then you have to educate people to see what the long-range development is and the solutions.”

(Zind) Debbie Bookchin says that despite her father’s realization that the world he envisioned was far in the future, he remained an optimist.

(Bookchin) “I think one of the things that was really remarkable about him was that even at the very end of his life, he never lost hope for human potential to create a free and liberatory society.”

(Zind) Bookchin died of heart failure at his home in Burlington. His family was at his side. He was 85.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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