I will be speaking at a Sociology graduate conference in a couple of days, and this is the abstract that I prepared for the presentation.
To provide entry-points into the works of Henri Lefebvre and Erich Fromm, this presentation contextualizes their approaches to production, class, and wider economic issues. Lefebvre was a neo-Marxist who had ties to Nietzsche, the Situationists, and various other Parisian currents of thought. Fromm was, above all, a neo-Marxist and a neo-Freudian — with significant involvements in the initial formation of the Frankfurt School. Their wide-ranging critical theories include accounts of how economic systems intersect with governments, mainstream culture, and technologies. Fromm often highlights social psychology, and Lefebvre provides distinct insights into geographic and urban topics. Relative to other such attempts to build on and revise Karl Marx’s analysis, Lefebvre and Fromm offer relatively comprehensive accounts. These theorists responded to post-WW2 consumerism, and to various banal forms of conformity, which have extended well beyond the workplace. These contributions included extensions of Marx’s approach to alienation and culture. Their critical accounts of established systems are complemented by attention to social movements, and collective alternatives. Yet, their works stray from a Marxist focus on working class movements. Lefebvre and Fromm also look to locally-based opposition — more along the lines of Marx’s views to the Paris Commune.
The plan for the presentation has been adjusted since I prepared that, but the abstracts for this conference aren’t circulated, so I’m not going to revise this. Any of the points that aren’t covered in the presentation still will be part of my dissertation, so the entire abstract still covers aspects of my ongoing studies.
An earlier version of the title had the term “Western Marxist” in it, but I went with”Neo-Marxist” because I think it’s better for capturing how original the approaches of Lefebvre and Fromm are.
By using the term “revisionism” to describe theorists who I appreciate, I am mocking a history of Marxists and Stalinists who have claimed that revisions generally are bad. While I appreciate how many of those critiques have been directed toward compromise, opportunism, and totalitarianism, the tactic of making “revisionism” into a dirty wood is a dogmatic way of defending orthodoxy. Hence, Stalinists used the term in that same way — to defend their agenda.
He also mentions:
- The World Health Organization (WHO)’s findings that Sarnia has the worst particulate pollution in Canada
- TODA’s water pollution
- The now inactive, and possibly dead, Lambton Community Health Study
- Free toxic tours around Chemical Valley
This interview follows up another one in which Zak gives updates about how shale gas will be or might be used around Sarnia-Lambton’s Chemical Valley.
Many of these topics had come up in conversation; we then decided to to record some of what Zak has to say about the situations around where he lives.
Being car free helps us to be free from tar sands impacts. In the meantime, we are becoming more and more dependent on dirtier and more expensive fossil fuel sources — including Alberta’s tar sands. Relative to conventional oil, tar sands crude has far more intense climate impacts, and the extraction of tar sands drains and pollutes immense amounts of fresh water. There are many terrible impacts.
At the zombie walk, we used a “Turtle Island” tailings pond to catch our oily run-off, before and after the walk.
Across the street we taped up a banner that calls for a better world, where banks don’t invest in tar sands operations. We had this banner up in front of a TD – Canada Trust building.
In addition to photos in the set shown below, more photos from the zombie walk are posted here.
This abstract (as academics call them) summarizes a presentation that I will be giving in Cleveland, on April 1st -
To compete with Cleveland’s Standard Oil, a set of companies in Ontario were amalgamated to form Imperial Oil, in 1880. Since its founding on the north side of Lake Erie — in London — this corporation has been a leading Canadian petroleum company. Imperial Oil later would drill Alberta’s first major oil well, and this company led the first petro-chemical operation in what would become the principle chemical processing centre in Canada — in Sarnia, Ontario. In this paper I will chronicle the role of Imperial Oil in Sarnia and London to situate these cities within the overall history of the company. In the process, I will sketch on-the-ground connections that generally receive little attention in Ontario, and elsewhere. As I draw links to the pioneering oil industry operations in neighbouring Oil Springs and Petrolia, I will focus on the company’s origins in London, and its subsequent petro-chemical operations in Sarnia. Although the bulk of my analysis will be historical, my account also will include personal experiences. In London, Ontario, I live within a few blocks of the former mansions of London oil barons. I also have been visiting and studying Sarnia — and, to a lesser extent, the Aamjiwnaang native reserve within that city. After decades of ongoing petro-chemical risks, impacts, and odours in Sarnia, the historical ties between London and Imperial Oil now are far from apparent. In London, the former refineries are gone, and the oil barons have left no obvious marks. My analysis of such historical and present-day conditions also will draw links with wider conditions in the Great Lakes rust belt.
The presentation will be at a North Central Sociological Association conference, in the Urban Sociology panel.
The local chapter of Israel on Campus brought a soldier from the Israel ‘Defense’ Force (IDF) to the University of Western Ontario. Our campus was one of many stops on the “Our Soldiers Speak” tour. Sergeant Benjamin Anthony has been visiting campuses to tell students about his ‘glorious’ work as an instrument of the Israeli government. He began his speech here in London, Ontario by boasting about his role as a machine-gunner who has carried out raids.
But approximately 150 protestors were ready to condemn the IDF. Many of us wore the names of children who were murdered during Operation Cast Lead, which began in December, 2008. Some of us also wore red shirts, at the protest.
Activists passed around flyers and a petition from the Canadian Boat to Gaza while we were waiting for the speaker (who arrived more than half an hour after the event was scheduled to begin). One of the event organizers grabbed the petition and left the room with it. Others had to chase him get the petition back — at which point he only could feebly tell us that the petition shouldn’t be passed around, then and there.
The Indigenous Environmental Network -
“Cancun Betrayal, UNFCCC Unmasked as WTO of the Sky“: “Real Solutions to the Climate Crisis Will Come From Grassroots Movements”
(To the extent that the UNFCCC framework is being denounced there, I agree. And, at future UN COP Summits, it will make sense for NGO representatives and regional activists to be there, even as they stress that the UN climate Summit framework has proven to be unsalvageable.)
One sad thing about this scene is that people are poisoned to produce the synthetic substances in that trash (like the plastic straws), which then are quickly disposed of. I mention that toxic production because Sarnia is Canada’s main chemical processing centre — in a very dirty rust belt region, where there are a lot of nasty petro-chemical industries.