A Different Understanding of Ourselves

Donate Now

Issue 317
November/December 2019
Where Do We Grow From Here?

Web Exclusives
Review

A Different Understanding of Ourselves
by

issue cover 317

Cover: Repair by Baracco+Wright Architects with Linda Tegg. Photograph: Roy Gardiner

Issue availability

Order the current issue now

Issue available as PDF

Reprint permissions

Alan Shepherd urges us to reflect the wisdom of Nature in our political and economic decision-making. Organicity: Entropy or Evolution by David Dobereiner. Black Rose Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781551647289

Organicity: Entropy or Evolution is the culmination of a life’s work, thought and care for Nature, a searching diagnosis of how we became mired in environmental crises, and a passionate demand for change that takes heed of past mistakes. An anarchist, architect, philosopher and environmentalist, David Dobereiner weaves together his commitments in a book bristling with ideas that resists classification. In dialogue, interview, manifesto, letters and philosophical analysis, it is a book by turns political, psychological, historical, economical and autobiographical – and one in which the reader will not be surprised to find the words of Gilles Deleuze, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva together on one page.

Dobereiner’s concept of ‘organicity’ is the central thread of the book; it came to him at first in his visionary ecological urban design work, but here the philosophical underpinnings are explored further, and in the process the idea is developed and expanded. Dobereiner sees the crises we now face as the critical stage in the conflict between economic and ecological systems; and, put simply, the solutions are a restoration of balance between dominance and mutual aid and between competition and cooperation – ideas recently popularised in ‘green new deals’ with which the book chimes.

Organicity requires us to redefine our relationship with the natural world: instead of picturing the world as something apart from ourselves, we need to remember that we too are Nature and that for our own wellbeing we must reintegrate with Nature that is not ‘red in tooth and claw’, but perfectly interconnected and balanced. And from this new understanding of what it is to be human we can begin to sketch out an alternative politics and an alternative economy that reflect this balance and interconnectedness. So the solution requires a different understanding of ourselves.

And Dobereiner envisions how this might work, with the architectural and the philosophical fused into the ideal structure of communities and the living spaces that support them. This is similar to Murray Bookchin’s idea of libertarian municipalism, where groups of around 500 people form into self-governing neighbourhoods, ruling themselves by direct democracy. Each community would be largely self-sufficient but would enter into cooperation with other communities as required. To make this way of life possible, Dobereiner advocates the design of living spaces as networks of terraced structures, one per community, with the house façades facing inwards to central plazas, like the agora of ancient Greece. The communal spaces create a green oasis, and any traffic is streamed outside of these zones. It’s a fascinating conception of a future way of life that seeks to enable the social and environmental changes required to establish a sustainable model in which all of Nature can flourish.

Organicity is unflinching in its survey of our predicament, but it reflects deeply on where we have gone wrong and shares an imaginative vision of how things can be done – have to be done – differently.

Alan Shepherd is a freelance philosopher and writer.

Share this page

The Resurgence Trust is an educational charity that publishes Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, Resurgence.org and theEcologist.org to promote ecological sustainability, social justice and spiritual values. Read our vision statement

© The Resurgence Trust | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Registration & Login Help | Sitemap | Contact Us

The Resurgence Trust publishes Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. Registered Charity Number: 1120414