Green Politics is Eutopian by Paul Gilk

Green Politics Is Eutopian

I’ve been feeling guilty about getting Paul Gilk’s Green Politics is Eutopian in to review, and not having gotten to it yet.  I am still working my way through Kelly Bryson’s Don’t Be Nice, Be Real which is A Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance approach to Compassionate Communication (a form of conflict resolution) with the travel be inside ones own thoughts and feelings instead of cross-country.  Well, Don’t Be Nice is due back in the library on the 17th, so that is my deadline to start reading Green Politics.

Ok, Ian but you can’t leave me hanging while you take your time doing blog post instead of reading your book, what is Eutopian? I admit I did peek in the book enough to answer that. Eutopian is defined in comparison.  While Utopian means “no place”, Eutopian means the “good place.”

Despite the confusing contradictions in the respective titles, we can take two late-nineteenth-century novels as clear examples of the “no-place”/”good place” division: Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and William Morris’s News from Nowhere. the contradiction is clarified by Bellamy’s “ideal” story is set entirely in a city, while Morris’s “real” tale is situated in the countryside.  Bellamy’s story is of an authoritatian, if also benevolent, urban nierarchy that directs a city-as-machine, while Morris’s tale is of robust community-orientedphysical life in a classless and unspoiled countryside.

Publisher Book Description

Various thinkers have attempted to explain the Earth-altering (even ecocidal) features in modern life. Jacques Ellul, for instance, a French intellectual, became famous for his exposition of “technique.” But “technique” does not adequately address the institutional incubation out of which “technique” itself arises.

In these essays, Paul Gilk stands on the shoulders of two American scholars in particular. One is world historian Lewis Mumford, whose career spanned fifty years. The other is classics professor Norman O. Brown, who brought his erudition into a systematic study of Freud.

From these intellectuals especially, Gilk concludes that the accelerating ecocidal characteristics of “globalization” are inherent manifestations of perfectionist, utopian, predatory institutions endemic to civilization. Our great difficulty in arriving at or accepting this conclusion is that “civilization” contains no negatives. It is strictly a positive construct. We are therefore incapable of thinking critically about it.

A corrective is slowly emerging from Green intellectuals. Green politics, says Gilk, is not utopian but “eutopian.” It is not aimed at perfectionist immortality but rather at earthly wholeness.

Yet the ethical message of Green politics confronts a society saturated with utopian mythology. The question is to what extent and at what speed ecological and cultural breakdown will dissolve civilized, utopian certitudes and provide the requisite openings for the growth of Green, eutopian culture.

Endorsements & Review

The fact that few of the books on Green Politics articulate the relevance of a neo-agrarian future makes Paul Gilk’s book especially important as we face the end of cheap oil and/or climate change. Gilk’s eutopian vision will help our bankrupt industrial civilization come to a soft landing rather than a crash.
—Maynard Kaufman, Retired professor of religion and environmental studies at Western Michigan University and organic farmer.

Paul Gilk is one of those who long ago foresaw the full extent of the environmental and social disasters facing the industrial world.  In these essays, as in his earlier work, he dares to challenge not only the abuses and excesses of a global economy, but the very dream of urban civilization itself.  With an eloquent voice and a ferociously independent mind, he examines our human condition in the 21st century.
—Rhoda R. Gilman, Editor:  Selections from Minnesota History (1968); Ringing in the Wilderness:  Selections from the North Country Anvil (1996);
Author:  The Story of Minnesota’s Past (1989); Henry Hastings Sibley, Divided Heart (2004); The Universality of Unknowing:  Luther Askeland and the Wordless Way (2007).

Paul Gilk serves as a powerful and prophetic voice for a profound and transformative Green Vision. His is not the green politics of trendy and upscale consumer alternatives. Gilk draws deeply from our history to chart a way to a genuinely sustainable future. Along the way he exposes many “an inconvenient truth” about our assumptions about society and the economy. Green Politics is Eutopian challenges the political practice of both mainstream environmentalists and militant Greens and calls them to an entirely different relationship with Nature.

– Dennis Boyer, author and folklorist, co-founder of the Wisconsin Greens, co-editor of the land use anthology A Place to Which We Belong

4 Responses

  1. […] and offered to send it to us for review.  I gave it a quick listen last night while writing about Paul Gilk’s Green Politics is Eutopian which is on my review pile also.  I especially enjoyed the first 2 tracks Bumpin in My SUV and […]

  2. I just stumbled across this book at the library and good timing because I’m headed off to Berkeley for the:

    Green Party of California’s 20th Anniversary Celebration
    February 6th, 2010 • 12pm to 9pm • Berkeley
    • 20 Years Anniversary of Founding of GPCA on February 4th, 1990
    • 25 years since Charlene Spretnak’s “Green Politics: the Global Promise”

    There will be a video/call-in with Spretnak and surprised that Gilk doesn’t list her book in his ample bibliography, since I consider it a Green classic!

  3. Did you ever do the review?

  4. Still reading it. It’s my current book. The more i read of Gilk’s book, Green Politics Is Eutopian, the more it seems to me a critique/answer/obverse of the ethics embedded in “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Despite his faint protestations of impartiality Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” holds the bigger, more is better corporate civilization as superior while not realizing he admits the loss of quality of life under civilized model. Gilk exposes how much we have lost in this Faustian bargain, and charts a path away from civilization and back to a better humanity. Gilk’s book, like his prescriptions for humanity, is the more challenging read, but the more rewarding.

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