Here is an article that is interesting partly because of where it comes from; the State of Nature describes itself as a quarterly online journal of the Left which is
…opposed to the capitalist economic order and the imperialist ambitions of the world’s great powers. As such, we remain committed to a thorough critique of global capitalism, the development of protest movements and the construction of radical alternatives to the status quo.”
A post from 2013 is entitled “Biodynamic Organic-Intellectuals” and is a critique of the combined history of the organic and biodynamic movements. Not simply disapproving of people with enough disposable income to afford the luxury of buying organic carrots in the supermarket, here is an explanation of how Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical method of farming has been influential from the beginning of the organic movement, and detail about the individuals involved.
Much support for biodynamics and indeed all things anthroposophical in this part of Gloucestershire comes from people who would probably describe themselves as on the political left, with posters in windows frequently promoting both Steiner Institutions and “Stroud against the Cuts” for example, so it is interesting to see biodynamics thoroughly taken apart by this article in State of Nature.
The author of the article, Michael Barker refers to a book by Philip Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, which he describes as enlightening, although in his view it wrongly downplays the influence of biodynamic farming on the organic movement. Interestingly he says Conford prefers not to credit Steiner with much influence, since this leaves the organic movement open to mockery from opponents(!)
In the article Barker goes on to explain exactly how influential anthroposophy has been and points out that the Soil Association
“…chose to employ a biodynamic farmer to help direct their comparative study of organic farming and conventional chemical-based farming (otherwise known as the Haughley Experiment). The individual in question being Deryck Duffy, who was a member of the Soil Association’s “original Panel of Experts and became, with Friend Sykes, a co-director of the Organic section of the Haughley Experiment.”
He also notes that the Soil Association has “aristocratic roots” and an “elitist pedigree that correlates nicely with the determinedly anti-materialistic and anti-socialist thinking of their leading activists and organic-intellectuals.”
We are taken through the connections with the Astor family, with Prince Charles and his route to organic farming, and to the supermarket chain Waitrose who are the largest supplier of his organic Duchy Originals.
I find Barker’s conclusion interesting, as he calls for a Marxist solution. He describes those who promote organics as
“bourgeois predators who, on the one hand, consume the planet to enrich themselves, and then offer us irrational solutions to distract us, to enable them to continue to sustainably rape the planet.”
People I know who support local initiatives involving anthroposophy and organic farming including Stroud Community Agriculture and the anthroposophical health centre – not to mention Transition – would certainly describe themselves as supporters of the political Left. It has also been a habit of those who object to criticism of the Steiner movement to describe critics as fascistic in their outlook, and to maintain that Steiner followers are the direct opposite of the “bourgeois predators” Barker describes. They are often described as working sustainably and as eco-friendly, and have acquired a veneer of respectability in some quarters based on these claims.
So anthroposophy has critics on all sides, not just from rationalist, so-called “materialist” objectors. The only precursor to becoming a critic for anyone not already in the Steiner fold is a willingness to sufficiently understand the tenets of anthroposophy in order to realise that the “nonsensical environmental theories” Barker highlights along with the rest of Steiner’s imaginings, are harmful to society.
The Green Party’s apparent support for Steiner initiatives is surprising when viewed in the light of this reporter’s take on biodynamics proponents as “consuming the planet to enrich themselves”.
It is well worth reading the article, but if you haven’t already seen it and don’t have time to digest the whole piece, at least read the concluding paragraph, which provides food for thought.