I’ve decided to try out a weekly tradition and return to the habit of posting movies, lectures and documentaries which tie in with the blog’s general themes. Video can be a lot easier and more accessible than large blocks of text, as well as more relaxing and social. If you have feedback or titles to suggest, get in touch by posting a comment, email (undustrial@gmail.com) or connect on Facebook

Murray Bookchin is one of the best-known names from mid-twentieth century anarchism, at least in the English world. Growing up a socialist in American during the depression, he came to reject the Stalinist party politics which dominated much of era’s radical life. This drove him towards anarchism and other libertarian ideals, as well as a fierce critique of both sides of the soon-to-begin Cold War. As the 60s and the “new left” begun, his focus began to shift toward ecological issues, integrating the domination of nature into larger questions of power and society, as well as a growing focus on “the city”.

During this time, anarchist thinking was evolving in many ways as well, and Bookchin’s work spans a chasm, in many ways, between older (“classical”) and newer theories. Ironically, he also became one of the fiercest critics of those newer ideas. Over the decades which followed, he became a legendary curmudgeon, railing against the more extreme post-modern ideals and thinkers like John Zerzan or Bob Black. In the last years of his life, such conflicts led him to officially renounce anarchism (and vice versa…), though the ecological and anti-authoritarian essence of his ideas never changed.

The vision presented by Murray Bookchin might be one of the “tamer” articulations of anarchism, but it’s also one of the most immediately practical. Instead of nation-states, he envisioned confederations of independent, radically democratic cities, with ecological, efficient, “communalist” economies. Drawing on examples from indigenous societies, Athenian democracy, revolutionary New England and medieval Europe, he makes a very compelling case.

Bookchin’s works cover a wide range of themes – politics, history, anthropology, the environment, cities and economics, and he’s known for founding theories such as “social ecology” and “libertarian municipalism”. His many books include “The Ecology of Freedom”, “Our Synthetic Environment” and “Post-Scarcity Anarchism”. He passed away in 2006 at age 85.

The following lectures and interviews given by Bookchin go back almost three decades and cover a very wide range of his work and personal history. They cover his ideas and life, as well as a fascinating first-hand look at decades of radical history. The last was given after his death by his long-term companion Janet Biehl about his life, work and correspondence with Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan (a big fan, apparently) – a really fascinating look at both Murray and “The Kurdish Question”. There’s many hours of footage here (some videos are only the first hour of longer sets), so don’t try to get through it all at once.

Forms of Freedom (part 1), San Francisco, (1985)
Bookchin Speaks at University of Waterloo (1985)
Urbanization Against Cities (part 1), Montreal (1993) (long series)*
Bookchin Discusses Anarchism (London, 1992)
Reflections of a Revolutionary (Burlington, Vt., 1994)
From Here to There (Burlington, Vt, 1993)

Janet Biehl on Murray Bookchin and Abdullah Ocalan (Hamburg, Germany, 2012)

*If you’re not an anarchist and more interested in urban issues (friends from RTH, etc), then this is probably the one for you. In this talk (or book of the same title) Bookchin contrasts the traditional political world of “the city” (citizens, “the polis”, etc) with rampant, sprawling “urbanization”. It’s one of his most important topics, and one that’s extremely relevant in today’s world of massive and growing conurbations like the GTA.