theory@buffalo 18: Marx and Nature [deadline for submission -- September 1, 2013]

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Brian O'Neil and Juan Robaina, editors
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Marxist theory has often been criticized for its supposed anthropocentrism. According to some, Marx’s celebration of human productive activity reduces nature to mere passive content to be formed by the labor that bestows value upon it. This mode of analysis, it is claimed, can do little to help us understand or address the present ecological crisis whose consequences are central to contemporary political struggles. And yet, such a view is reductive; from the very start – in his earliest writings – Marx placed the natural world at the center of his social theory. In this, Marx was not only drawing upon German Romantic philosophies of nature, but also contemporary developments within science in general and biology in particular. It is well-known that Marx dedicated the German edition of Capital to Charles Darwin, and sent Darwin an inscribed copy of the book in 1873. Though Marx’s emphasis on the malleability of human nature would seem to contradict later developments in evolutionary theory, there has been a “turn to Marx” in recent decades on the part of some evolutionary biologists: the late Stephen Jay Gould describes his theory of “punctuated equilibrium” as a form of dialectical materialism, and, as his colleague Richard C. Lewontin has emphasized, contemporary developments in epigenetics would seem to support a Marxist account of the interaction between “human nature,” as a set of innate potentialities, and the environmental factors which condition its expression.

What significance do these scientific developments have for Marxist theory, and how does Marx equip us to interpret them? How can a Marxist understanding of “life” help us understand debates in biopolitics and the “new materialism” that has come to occupy contemporary continental philosophy? The editors of theory@buffalo’s eighteenth volume seek papers that will address the relation between a Marxist sense of “life,” “nature,” and the storied confrontation between philosophy, politics, and science. theory@buffalo also accepts book reviews. These can be on any topic and must be 1,200 words or less. All other submissions should be no longer than 10,000 words. Please send two blind copies with a cover page and disk to the address below. Alternatively, you can send your submission electronically as an MS Word attachment to or, re:theory@buffalo 18.

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