James Richard O’Connor’s Ecological Marxism – Capitalism Nature Socialism – article

James Richard O’Connor’s Ecological Marxism

Saed | Capitalism Nature Socialism


The late James O’Connor, founder of Capitalism Nature Socialism, contributed decisively to the development of ecological Marxism. As a self-described Polányian Marxist and activist, he has often been misrepresented. His early works carefully considered people’s material conditions and inter- and intra-class contradictions. A distinctive approach emerged already by the late 1960s, manifest in the publication of The Origins of Socialism in Cuba (O’Connor 1970). A work that merits revisiting, it helps to grasp the importance of dialectical understandings of revolutionary situations and outcomes. It is premised on understanding social institutions as constantly shaping each other and through such processes bringing about social change. By identifying the concrete interests of various class fractions and explaining the dialectical relationships among those class fractions, O’Connor offered one of the most convincing explanations of the Cuban Revolution. To him, the preceding economic structure was superseded by means of dynamics internal to that structure and dialectically related to external U.S. imperialist policies. Contradictions within Cuban society, reflected in the shifting power balance within state institutions, resulted in a turn from an initial market-friendly reformist trajectory to a full-blown state socialist path involving variable policies of nationalisation in key pre-existing monopoly sectors, wealth redistribution, and limited private sector inducements.


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