After our interview with Steve Vogel, he emailed us a copy of a chapter he wrote called “Alienation and the Commons” from the book Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change. This followed up on a point he made during the interview: that there is a similarity between nature-as-other and “the market.” It was a powerful idea and one that I was eager to investigate further.
Briefly: Marx thought that capitalism alienated people from the products of their labor. While the things we produce are social products – created by us and countless other people – we see instead “facts” over which we have no control.
Similarly, when we fail to see the extent to which our environment is human-built, and see instead “nature”, we are experiencing alienation from our individual and collective actions. Vogel writes:
For Marx, then, the appearance of nature is itself a symptom of alienation.