Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal


Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva

Zed Books, London


The ecological feminists Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva have published a second edition of their widely known book after 20 years, once again fighting passive consumerism and social decay with a straightforward and radical analysis of patriarchal structures that reflects and re-envisions their model of subsistence.

Written in a highly engaging style, the two authors argue that the key social, economic, cultural and psychological problems that revealed the tensions and fights between the rights of “the world as our household” and the “capitalist patriarchy”, between the “laws of Gaia” and those of “market and warfare”, prevail and that the resulting crises that were addressed in the first book have become more intense and more violent.

Although they come from two different disciplinary, cultural and social backgrounds, the authors arrive at similar analytical conclusions from viewing issues such as homelessness, environmental degradation, trade and agriculture, and biotechnology from women’s perspectives.  Very conscious of their partial view and their political goals and engagement as academics and feminists, they speak out about what it means to be loyal to future generations and the planet and to maintain life-sustaining practices of working and living in a way that defies capitalist patriarchy.

Filled with numerous cases, the book includes discussions on the very beginning of life, such as the marketization of the human foetus, seeds and wombs in light of new technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and programmes of sterilization. It highlights the role of women to preserve indigenous knowledge, e.g. through smallholder farming practices and biodiversity conservation, and illustrates how these are threatened and continuously undermined. The chapters illuminate how (white) men colonize women, peasants and countries alike through, for instance, defining science as pure truth and expert knowledge as power, or transforming motherhood and the female body into an industrial production process.

This book is without doubt thought-provoking. Seeing violence, power and ecological degradation through the eyes of the two authors, who themselves view the issues through the eyes of women, makes Ecofeminism unsettling reading for anyone concerned about the future of our planet and the role of women in its sustenance. But the concluding chapter provides readers with a hopeful  vision, highlighting that women and children are not only often the main victims, but also the most creative, committed and concerned with advocating a subsistence alternative of a good life, “…where social justice, equality, human dignity, beauty and joy in life were not just utopian dreams never to be realized…” (p.322).

Book note prepared by Julia Wesely

Photo of Vandana Shiva, by derivative work: Ekabhishek (talk) Vandana_Shiva_in_2007.jpg: Ajay Tallam (Vandana_Shiva_in_2007.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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