A Discussion of John P. Clark's "The Impossible Community" and his dialectical social ecology

Submitted by Potemkin in Ecosocialism

I'm curious if anyone here is aware of the work of John P. Clark? I'm currently re-reading his book The Impossible Community: Realizing Communitarian Anarchism. Though a little dense (as astute dialectical observation tends to be), I find his work overall very insightful and recuperative, particularly for social ecology.

In this book, a couple chapters are dedicated to critiquing certain elements of Murray Bookchin's thought, particularly his formulations of "libertarian municipalism" and "dialectical naturalism." Of course, anyone familiar with Bookchin's trajectory beginning from the mid-80s onward may be a little wary of any critique, as the level of vitriol and polemic between Bookchin and several harsh critics for almost two decades really shut down the "intellectual space" of social ecology. Indeed, Bookchin seems to have scared off many from his ideas, and the ones that remain refuse to develop his theories further in his absence.

I think this is a shame. In The Impossible Community, the critique leveled at Bookchin is for the most part aboveboard, and from a sympathetic position (though Clark engaged in some of these polemical debates with Bookchin back in the 90s--I think all involved are best to move past what I call the "dark times" for social ecology and social anarchism generally).

Most importantly, I think Clark's work poses a healthy challenge to social ecology at present, creating a fork in its development: 1) social ecology can generally accept Clark's arguments and continue to strengthen and develop the field from that perspective, 2) it can reject Clark's arguments but work to overcome/invalidate them (such as strengthening Bookchin's concept of dialectical naturalism) and again strengthen and develop the field, or 3) (which seems to be the most common) reject Clark's arguments in their entirety and on the face of it, preserving Bookchin's thought in stasis and removing the "living" theoretical elements of social ecology.

More than this, though, Clark's ecocommunitarianism has exciting insights into potential praxes for the here and now.

I also really enjoyed his essays about, and translations of, Elisee Reclus' thought in Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisee Reclus. In that work, he guides the reader through important aspects of Reclus' thought from an anarchist-communist perspective, and discusses how Reclus overcame some of the most damning criticism of "modernity" in his thought. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys Peter Kropotkin's work.

Is anyone familiar with Clark? If so, thoughts? The link in his name at top links to his Academia.edu site, where you can download almost all of his writing.


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