Biehl breaks with social ecology
FYI: Janet Biehl was one of the lecturers at the Institute for Social Ecology back in the 1990's when I arrived there for the summer course. After the course ended I decided to stay in Vermont and enroll in Goddard College's Social Ecology M.A. program. I ended up living there for a few years. After returning to Puerto Rico I visited the Institute every summer and lectured there myself for a few years. I essentially agree with Biehl's views on anti-statism.
As American social and economic life has been undergoing turmoil and regression, I found the antistatism of social ecology/viz. communalism paralyzing. In order to at least adhere to the appearance of antistatism, I had to stifle myself politically. (At least in the solitude of a voting booth I could vote for Obama.) But in the fall of 2010, when a Democratic candidate for governor ran on a platform to bring single-payer healthcare to the state of Vermont I could not longer suppress myself. I crossed the thin black line and … did volunteer work for this candidate. Shortly afterward I began “coming out” to my social ecology friends. Fortunately they have mostly taken it in stride, and I remain on good terms with most; my friends at New Compass, for example, continue to publish my writings in areas where we overlap.
Murray developed social ecology in the postwar era, when moving the social agenda forward in a radical way seemed possible. Utopianism, he said, not only possible but necessary. Today it may still be necessary, but it seems very far from possible. The champions of antistatism today are Wall Street, gigantic financial institutions, multinational corporations. The Koch Brothers are the great success story of American libertarianism, champing at the bit to undo the social safety net that progressive people in the twentieth century struggled to create. (Other forces subservient to capital are cutting social programs in Europe and the U.K.) In the coming months the Republicans in Congress are going to put Medicaid and Medicare on the chopping block. Many real people—not theoretical people in the pages of theoretical articles, but real people–are suffering now from the untrammeled financial royalism of Wall Street and will suffer more when they lose the social programs. I fail to see how an antistatist practice can address this ominous situation constructively. What does make sense to me, mundane as you may think it, is a rearguard fight to preserve the social programs. So no, I will not form a study group to smash the state; I will march to defend Medicare and Medicaid. I am not an antistatist—be it anarchist, communalist, or social ecologist; I am a social democrat and make no apologies for it.