Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | September 27, 2010

Ecology and Law


Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.- Marx

“There can be no economic theory of international relations, even economic ones, because they sit astride heterogeneous formations” –Samir Amin

Productivism has of course been the dominant perspective for the last two centuries or more, cutting across the ideological spectrum. In many ways, though, Marx, who was hands down the most sophisticated social analyst of the environmental predicament in the nineteenth century, constituted an exception. He argued that what was needed was the rational regulation by the associated producers of the metabolic relation between human beings and nature in such a way as to promote the highest levels of individual and collective human fulfillment at the lowest cost in terms of the expenditure of energy. This was the end point of his critique of capitalism and at the same time a crucial part of his definition of communism. He pointed to the “irreparable rift” in the metabolism between humanity and nature caused by the capitalist production. Marx presented the most radical vision conceivable of sustainable human development, arguing that individuals didn’t own the earth, that all the countries and peoples on the planet did not own the earth, that it was our responsibility to maintain and if possible improve the earth for succeeding generations (as good heads of the household). We have to move beyond the businessmen ideology what Marx once said “In general it is always empirical businessmen we are talking about when we refer to political economists, (who represent) their scientific creed and form of existence.(selfish)” . Here I am putting a  passage in which Marx pleads for severe punishment for the wood thieves, he says cutting woods is a murder and must be treated as murder.

Further, if felled wood is stolen from a third person, this felled wood is material that has been produced by the owner. Felled wood is wood that has been worked on. The natural connection with property has been replaced by an artificial one. Therefore anyone who takes away felled wood takes away property

In the case of fallen wood, on the contrary, nothing has been separated from property. It is only what has already been separated from property that is being separated from it. The wood thief pronounces on his own authority a sentence on property. The gatherer of fallen wood only carries out a sentence already pronounced by the very nature of the property, for the owner possesses only the tree, but the tree no longer possesses the branches that have fallen from it.

The gathering of fallen wood and the theft of wood are therefore essentially different things. The objects concerned are different, the actions in regard to them are no less different hence the frame of mind must also be different, for what objective standard can be applied to the frame of mind other than the content of the action and its form? But, in spite of this essential difference, you call both of them theft and punish both of them as theft. Indeed, you punish the gathering of fallen wood more severely than the theft of wood, for you punish it already by declaring it to be theft, a punishment which you obviously do not pronounce on the actual theft of wood. You should have called it murder of wood and punished it as murder. The law is not exempt from the general obligation to tell the truth. It is doubly obliged to do so, for it is the universal and authentic exponent of the legal nature of things. Hence the legal nature of things cannot be regulated according to the law; on the contrary, the law must be regulated according to the legal nature of things. But if the law applies the term theft to an action that is scarcely even a violation of forest regulations, then the law lies, and the poor are sacrificed to a legal lie.

“There are two kinds of corruption,” says Montesquieu, “one when the people do not observe the laws, the other when they are corrupted by the laws: an incurable evil because it is in the very remedy itself.”

You will never succeed in making us believe that there is a crime where there is no crime, you will only succeed in converting crime itself into a legal act. You have wiped out the boundary between them, but you err if you believe that you have done so only to your advantage. The people sees the punishment, but it does not see the crime, and because it sees punishment where there is no crime, it will see no crime where there is punishment. By applying the category of theft where it ought not to be applied, you have also exonerated it where this category ought to be applied.

In order to appropriate growing timber, it has to be forcibly separated from its organic association. Since this is an obvious outrage against the tree, it is therefore an obvious outrage against the owner of the tree.

The whole interesting debate on woods la w you can read here

-blog editor

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