False antitheses? Marxism, nature and actor-networks



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2002). False antitheses? Marxism, nature and actor-networks. Antipode: a radical journal of geography, 34 (1), 111-146.


This paper stages an encounter between two critical approaches that have been central to the recent "greening" of left geography. The theoretical and normative claims of the first approach, eco-Marxism, have been subject to sometimes biting criticism from advocates of the second approach, actor-network theory (ANT). Taking a nonorthodox Marxist perspective, I argue that the ANT critique of political economy approaches to nature is overstated and only partly defensible. By distinguishing between different modalities of eco-Marxism and ANT, I show the seeming standoff between the two approaches to society-nature relations to be false. Splitting the difference between a weak version of ANT and a relational version of eco-Marxism yields a political economy approach to socionature that arguably avoids the excesses of strong modalities of ANT and dualistic forms of eco-Marxism. By seeking to bridge the apparent gap between Marxism and ANT, the paper avoids reducing either approach to society-nature relations to one fixed position or theoretical-normative "essence". Instead, a particular modality of ANT is used to address the weaknesses of certain extant versions of eco-Marxism. The resulting synthesis offers conceptual tools with which Marxists can still critique a pervasive mode of human relationality to nature-namely, capitalist-while multiplying the actors and complicating the politics involved in approaching the society-environment nexus.

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