Murray Bookchin

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Murray Bookchin was born in New York City on January 14, 1921, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents who had been active in the Russian revolutionary movement. In 1930 he entered the Communist youth movement, joining first the Young Pioneers and then the Young Communist League, serving as education director for his branch. But in 1935 he became disillusioned by Stalin’s shift of international Communism to the less militant “Popular Front” party line. Deeply involved in organizing activities around the Spanish Civil War (he was too young to participate directly), he remained with the Communists until the Stalin-Hitler pact of September 1939, when he was expelled for "Trotskyist-anarchist deviations." He proceeded to aligned himself with the American Trotskyists. After graduating from high school, he found work as a foundryman in northern New Jersey, thereby entering the workers' movement. At the foundry, where he worked for four years, he became active in labor organizing for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

"He served in the U.S. Army during the mid-1940s, then returned home to employment as an autoworker. He became deeply involved in the United Auto Workers (UAW), which was at the time a highly libertarian union...

"In the early 1960s Bookchin wrote two important journalistic books, intended for a general readership, that raised the alarm about a range of environmental ills. In Our Synthetic Environment (pseud. Lewis Herber), published in 1962 (preceding Rachel Carson's Silent Spring by nearly half a year), he surveyed the scientific literature on pesticides, food additives, and X-radiation as sources of human illness, including cancer. In Crisis in Our Cities (1965) explored environmental problems specific to American urban areas...

"In “Towards a Liberatory Technology” (1965) he called for a new ecotechnics using alternative, renewable energy sources and microtechnologies that would form the infrastructure of a liberatory society. In “Listen, Marxist!” (1969) he tried to warn SDS against its imminent takeover by a Maoist group and in so doing mounted a searing critique of Marxism-Leninism. In “A Note on Affinity Groups” he called attention to a nonhierarchical unit of political organization used by the Spanish anarchists. All these essays profoundly influenced the New Left in North America and Europe and were collected in the anthology Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971; republished 1977 and 2004). In the late 1960s Bookchin also taught at the Alternative University in New York, one of the largest "free universities" in the United States, and at City University of New York in Staten Island.

"In 1974 he co-founded and directed the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont, which went on to acquire an international reputation for its advanced courses in ecophilosophy, social theory, and alternative technologies. In 1974 he also began teaching at Ramapo College of New Jersey, where this self-educated high-school graduate eventually became a full professor of social theory; he retired in 1983 to an emeritus status. In the 1970s Bookchin was active in the antinuclear movement and participated in the Clamshell Alliance, opposing the Seabrook nuclear reactor in New Hampshire...

"In 1990 Bookchin retired from active political life. He continued to teach at the Institute for Social Ecology, where he held the status of director emeritus, but spent most of his time writing. With his companion and collaborator Janet Biehl, he co-edited forty issues of the theoretical newsletter Green Perspectives (later renamed Left Green Perspectives); it became the main venue for his articles in that decade, finally folding in 2000...

"On July 30, 2006, about one year after the publication of the fourth and final volume of The Third Revolution, Bookchin died of heart failure at his home in Burlington. He died as he had always lived, as a socialist, with integrity." [1]

Selected Onlined Resources



  • The Progressive, March 1992 (critical letters responding to a Bookchin article)
  • Mary Meleor, Breaking the Boundaries: Toward a Green Feminist Socialism (Virago Press, 1992).
  • Alan P Rudy, "Ecology and anthropology in the work of Murray Bookchin: Problems of theory and evidence", Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, Jun 1998. Vol. 9, Iss. 2.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. A Short Biography of Murray Bookchin, Anarchy Archives, accessed May 30, 2008.

Other Resources

  • Brian Tokar, "On Bookchin's Social Ecology and its Contributions to Social Movements", Capitalism Nature Socialism, Volume 19, Issue 1 March 2008, pp.51-66.