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New Left Review I/217, May-June 1996

Mary Mellor

Myths and Realities: A Reply to Cecile Jackson

The myths that Cecile Jackson identifies in her article in nlr 210 are that self-determination and freedom are better achieved through identification with ‘nature’ rather than separation from it; the utopian assertion of the superiority of subsistence economies and communal life; the rejection of scientific knowledge in favour of local, indigenous and women’s knowledges, with the latter based on an essentialized view of women. [1] Cecile Jackson, ‘Radical Environmental Myths: A Gender Perspective’, nlr 210, pp. 124–40. The core of her concern is that these myths are leading to rationality becoming a ‘dirty word’ which, in turn, undermines the potential for historical and materialist analysis: ‘We need to reassert the value of a historical and materialist analysis, informed by a deconstruction of some unexamined key terms in ecofeminist positions such as love, nature, indigenous knowledge, Third World women.’ [2] Ibid., p. 140. While I have sympathy with many of Jackson’s concerns about both radical environmentalism and ecofeminism, and have expressed similar reservations elsewhere, [3] M. Mellor, Breaking the Boundaries, London 1992; ‘Green Politics: Ecofeminist, Eco-feminine or Ecomasculine?’, Environmental Politics, vol. 1, no. 2 (1992). I think that her arguments ignore the radical potential of both movements for a historical, materialist analysis. Further, I would argue that such an analysis that is not green and feminist is incomplete.

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