MURDEROUS PROVIDENCE: A Study of Pollution In Industrial Societies by Harry Rothman

MURDEROUS PROVIDENCE: A Study of Pollution In Industrial Societies

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Part of this book is a routine though clear and generally competent rundown on pollution and environmental control techniques: insecticides, cars, mercury, nuclear fallout, and so forth. This is framed by a loose Marxist view of man's relation to nature as a creative alteration of natural values through work (as opposed to brutalizing nature or passively reveling in it). Rothman underlines the fact that working people suffer more from pollution than their employers, who don't get silicosis, etc., and can enjoy country air. A strictly Marxist approach would stress the future of the species as a whole in relation to food and fuel possibilities, but Rothman does make firm arguments against neo-Malthusians and zero-growth advocates. However, judging from recent Establishment advocacy of reduced living standards and ""final solutions"" to population expansion on ecological grounds, Rothman seems overly optimistic in assuming that ""the revolution and the environmental struggle will become one."" He points out that the usual anti-pollution rhetoric enables politicans to shift blame from industrialists and politicians to the ordinary citizen and his desire for children and possessions; and he warns that business will fight pollution control on the basis that controls would hamper its competitive position in world trade. In a low-keyed way, Rothman succeeds in making a basic point: not economic growth as such but the anarchic rationality of private, individual interests has permitted pollution proliferation. (As for the USSR, an accounting system that disregards ""public costs"" is responsible.) The pollution survey is geared to uninformed readers; the conceptualizations will have broader interest. The title comes from Blake: ""A murderous Providence! A Creation that groans, living on Death/ Where Fish & Bird & Beast & Man & Tree & Metal & Stone/ Live by Devouring. . . .

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill