in the Preface, Marx wrote

Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.  Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.

i’ve wondered to what extent the emergence of the ecology movement can be understood through this excerpt as the new superior relations of production, and thus the struggle is the task that arises only when the material conditions for its solutions are already present or at least in the course of formation.

this, of course, implies that both particular social problems and crises, and their solutions emerge and develop historically over a certain period of time, in a specific way.  the nuts and bolts of this historical emergence are that the working class and oppressed — the agents of change — subjects of the historical act of liberation — play active roles in both the development of capital, and simultaneously in the development of their own potentiality to liberate themselves.

an important focus of this passage is the development of consciousness.  in what ways is ecological consciousness a form of class consciousness, just like race consciousness or gender consciousness?  but, again, as Marx says, “this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life,”  a demand is being made to explain how the ecology movement has emerged from “the contradictions of material life,”

Marx describes this process in a number of ways.  in the German Ideology, for instance, he says

But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, housing, clothing and various other things.  The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself.  And this is an historical act […]  The second point is that the satisfaction of the first need, the action of satisfying and the instrument of satisfaction which has been acquired, leads to new needs.

and on the first page of Capital volume 1:

Every useful thing, […] maybe looked at from the two points of view of quality and quantity.  Every useful thing is a whole composed of many properties; it can therefore be useful in various ways.  The discovery of these ways and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history.

these two passages are important because they describe the expansion of the experiences of human life and human creative powers as a process unfolding over a definite period of time.  the satisfaction of our needs in any given moment and the means to do so produces new needs and material qualities.

what is striking is that this historical process is rooted in the ‘natural’ conditions of being human;  that is to say it is rooted in the biological/physical necessities of sustaining life.  this life-sustaining process is the motor for the expanding powers, desires and needs of human life.  but with the expansion of desires and needs, comes the material to do so, and the process by which it is done.

taken together, these ideas raise a question of how both the ecological crisis, and its resolution/transcendence has emerged historically;  in what ways has the solution to the ecological crisis emerged, but due to the alienation of these new needs and powers of the oppressed been the motor behind the crisis?

consciousness can be understood in one way as a real, practical question.  if the relations of production are a fetter on the productive forces, how then is consciousness as the self-expression and movement of the ecological movement a real, practical question and expression of the contradiction in material society?

i’m getting lost in these abstractions…

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