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From the text: Decades later, I’m a mostly self-employed farmer working a small piece of land, growing a fair slice of my own food, with few opportunities to ‘get away’, but absorbed in the daily wildness of creating sustenance from the earth. I still believe in equality, and I still believe in science, progress and rationality, although in a more conflicted way than before. And when I now think about the kind of society I’d like to see – which I do more often than I used to – I imagine one in which a lot of people live a similar kind of life to my present one. I have, in short, become an advocate for peasantisation, localisation, agrarian populism, anti-globalisation and degrowth – a cluster of ideas that I think of as an economics of the home.
For that reason, I’m a traitor to the leftist politics set out by Leigh Phillips in his recent book Austerity Ecology & The Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff2. Perhaps I’m what he’d term a “cuckoo’s egg in the nest of the left”. His sense of ‘the left’ is pretty impoverished – an orthodox Marxist, crypto-Bolshevism that I’m happy to steal nest space from. And in truth his book is very bad – crowded with contradictions, non-sequiturs, dodgy mathematics and cod philosophy, as various reviewers have pointed out3. I’ve already sounded off, perhaps a bit too hastily, about the failings of his thinking4, so perhaps the wise course now would be to maintain a dignified silence.
And yet my thoughts keep going back to the book, not because of what it is, but of what it might have been – a constructive left-wing critique of my newfound way of life and that of a growing number of other home economists. I see value in a socialist critique of home economics, but also value in a home economics critique of socialism. A good Marxist would call this approach ‘dialectical’. I’m not a good Marxist and neither is Leigh Phillips, but I hope this essay will produce a more interesting synthesis of the two politics that have made most sense to me at different times in my life than the howl of nostalgia for a long-outmoded politics of ‘progress’ at the heart of Phillips’ philippic. What I offer here is not a review of his book, but a meditation on some specific themes prompted by it.