We argue in this article that Marx’s scientific method coupled with his analysis of the phenomenological consciousness of agents trapped within the capitalist mode of production provides a sufficient solution to the transformation problem. That is, Marx needs no amending – mathematical, philosophical, or otherwise – and the tools he uses to demonstrate and resolve the problem – science and phenomenology – were already clearly spelled out in his texts. Critics of Marx either fail to understand his scientific method, or are themselves trapped within a non-scientific capitalist phenomenology. Similarly, Marxists that mathematically resolve the transformation problem fail to realise that Marx’s scientific analysis alone demonstrates that a mathematical solution to the transformation problem is a misapprehension of the relation between Marx’s abstract theory and concrete phenomena. Consequently, we also criticise the monetary theorists who try to dismiss the problem as pointless by claiming that Marx was not a pre-monetary theorist.
The present essay seeks to offer a conceptual framework for grappling with climate change from within the sources of Jewish law (halakhah), a discourse rooted in the Hebrew Bible but developed in the rabbinic literature of Late Antiquity and then in medieval and modern codes and commentaries. Halakhah reflects deeply-held intellectual, theological, ontological, and sociological values. As a modus vivendi, rabbinic law—variously interpreted by Jews of different stripes—remains a vital force that shapes the life of contemporary practitioners. We are interested in how a variety of contemporary scholars, theologians, and activists might use the full range of rabbinic legal sources—and their philosophical, jurisprudential, and moral values—to construct an alternative environmental ethic founded in a worldview rooted in obligation and a matrix of kinship relationships. Our essay is thus an exercise in decolonizing knowledge by moving beyond the search for environmental keywords or ready analogies to contemporary western discourse. We join the voices of recent scholars who have sought to revise regnant assumptions about how religious traditions should be read and interpreted with an eye to formulating constructive ethics.
The commandment to send the mother bird from her nest before taking her eggs or chicks, known in Jewish tradition as shiluach hakan, is found in Deuteronomy 22:6–7. This essay addresses dominant perspectives on the mother bird mitzvah—its association with good luck, bad luck, and compassion—before showcasing rabbinic texts from Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud Hullin Chapter 12 that evince interest in birds as ingenious builders, as fathers and not just mothers, as queer parents and altruists, as rebel spirits who resist captivity even unto death and, finally, in birds as co-inhabitants of the earth whose lives are parallel to as well as enmeshed with our own. I offer here a bird-centric approach to the commandment, an effort to read it in a spirit of anti-anthropocentrism, drawing on animal studies scholar Matthew Calarco’s notion of indistinction.
The prevailing stance in Jewish orthodoxy is that environmental issues are extra-legal and not under the purview of halakhah (Jewish law). While considered important, environmental protection falls only under “midat haḥasidut” (extraordinary piety). This ultimately translates into environmental protection being treated as non-obligatory and only under the purview of righteous behavior rather than obligation. This has created a significant barrier to halakhically driven environmental decision-making. I argue that this worldview emerges from the process of conceptualizing the prohibition of bal tashḥit—“waste not,” the prohibition against wastefulness originating in Deuteronomy 20:19. This verse gave rise to two worldviews: one which was prioritized of not destroying the environment out of compassion for the non-human world, and another marginalized worldview that emphasized a self-concerned environmentalism which equates harm to the environment as self-harm. Privileging this latter worldview creates a pathway to advance Jewish legal discourse and align it with mainstream environmentalism.
Haviva Pedaya’s book The Eye of the Cat presents an innovative theology of ecology, yet in correspondence with traditional Jewish-Kabbalistic sources. I discuss Pedaya’s ecopoetic reading of these sources, as well as her own midrashim in this regard. Pedaya raises questions regarding the place of man in the world; political questions regarding center and periphery; urbanization and nature; construction and destruction. These questions arise via the book’s unique poetic expression. Pedaya offers a theology of waste, addressing the place of garbage in the human sphere through the Kabbalistic idiom regarding the collection of qlipoth (“husks” קליפות,). The Kabbalistic project of collecting the qlipoth, which previously functioned in the context of an esoteric and mostly secretive symbolic system, now takes on a different meaning in light of the real “husks” that demand to be collected and reused.
The Jewish community farming movement began in 2004 with the founding of Adamah and it now comprises over twenty farming organizations bound together by a shared sense that the best way to face the climate crisis is by drawing on the well of Jewish tradition. These Jewish farmers put environmental ethics into practice as they face the realities of our time. The multispecies theorist Donna Haraway refers to this era as the Chthulucene, which she describes as “a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth.” In this article, I draw on Haraway’s work and on my ethnographic fieldwork conducted at Jewish community farming organizations all over North America to describe the ways in which Jewish farmers are “staying with the trouble” in this era.
This paper seeks to explain the greater appeal of Jewish naturalistic theologies given our greater appreciation today of the ecological vulnerability of our world. By examining the theological writings of two prominent twentieth-century Jewish thinkers—Hans Jonas and Arthur Green. The paper demonstrates that their espousal of naturalistic yet theistic worldview in their interpretations and reconstructions of Jewish tradition shares significant affinities and promotes an ethical attitude toward the environment. First, I show that Jonas and Green reject reductive forms of naturalism and embrace a nonreductive or “expansive” style of naturalism. Then, I argue that their theologies intend to stimulate a sense of responsibility toward all creation by envisioning humans as partners of a non-omnipotent God. I conclude by noting the metaphysical, epistemological, and moral promises of theistic naturalism to Jewish environmental ethics.
This article explores the ecopoetry written by three women poets who also identify themselves as Jewish poets: Alicia Ostriker, Marge Piercy and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky. It examines whether they employ any or some/all of the “emancipatory strategies” characteristic of the ecofeminist re-imagination of nature and human relationships with the natural world, seeking to answer several questions: How far can these poems be considered part of eco-Judaism? Does the fact that their authors are women also make them ecofeminist works? Does the poets’ Jewish feminist identity contribute to their ecopoetic call for ecological change?