Joel Kovel

Kovel was born in Brooklyn in 1936. As a youth he was fascinated by the physical sciences and mathematics, and set a career path in their direction, only to veer off toward medicine because of a wish to be engaged with the life of humanity. This pattern repeated itself: as a scientifically trained physician he felt the need to go further into the study of humanity and turned toward psychaitry and then, psychoanalysis. Meanwhile, a growing political radicalization was introducing new dimensions. The Vietnam War instilled in him a wish to devote his life to bringing down the imperialism responsible for the horrors of United States aggression. He decided to take up these subjects as a writer, and produced his first book, White Racism, in 1970. A review of that work made him realize the need to study Marx; and this in turn transformed his sense of vocation. He set out to try a synthesis of Marx and Freud (his third book, The Age of Desire, being a result of this). The synthesis failed, that is, Marx overcame Freud, and Kovel became deeply disillusioned with his psychoanalytic/psychiatric work. He left those professions in the mid-1980s and became a college professor, public intellectual and activist. Working in Sandinista Nicaragua brought him face to face with the radical priests of liberation theology; and this caused a further radicalization of his thought, into the spiritual dimension. His sixth book, History and Spirit, attempted an integration of Marxism, deep subjectivity and the study of religion as a transformative force. Shortly thereafter, he became aware of the ecological crisis as a grave rupture in the entire relationship between humanity and nature. From the late 1980s to the present this became a guiding principle of his theoretical as well as practical work. As for the former, he joined with the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism, becoming its Editor in Chief in 2003. He published his ninth book, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, in 2002, and has since devoted himself to the development of the notion of Ecosocialism as a synthesis of Marxism and ecology. His political practice in the 1990s was centered about the Green Party, and featured two national races, in 1998 for the US Senate, and in 2000, challenging Ralph Nader for the Presidential nomination. After 2000 he diminished his Green involvement and focussed on the implementation of Ecosocialism; this took an organizational turn in 2007 as he participated in the founding, in Paris, of the Ecosocialist International Network. He continues active in this cause. Ever-restless and unable to tolerate injustice, Kovel undertook yet another direction early in the new millennium: anti-Zionism. This culminated in his 2007 book, his tenth, Overcoming Zionism, and a host of political practices organized around this theme. These have involved encounters with the Zionist lobbies and various fracases, for example, having his book banned, and being dismissed from his Professorship. Kovel intends to keep fighting and learning as long as he is granted the strength for the struggle. He has found this a good way to live.

Joel Kovel's

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