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Janet Biehl

Janet Biehl
Born (1953-09-04) September 4, 1953 (age 66)
Alma materWesleyan University
SubjectSocial ecology

Janet Biehl (born September 4, 1953) is an American political writer who is the author of numerous books and articles associated with social ecology, the body of ideas developed and publicized by Murray Bookchin. Formerly an advocate of his antistatist political program, she broke with it publicly in 2011. She works as a freelance copy editor for book publishers in New York. She currently focuses as well on translating, journalism, and artmaking.


Biehl grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended Wesleyan University, graduating in 1974 as a theater major. She studied acting as well as set and costume design at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. She then moved to New York City, where she appeared in off-off-Broadway productions, including the world premiere of Fefu and Her Friends by Maria Irene Fornes. Biehl studied drawing and watercolor painting at the Art Students League of New York. In 1985 she enrolled at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she earned an M.A. in liberal studies.

Social ecology

In 1986 she attended the Institute for Social Ecology, in Vermont, where she met the social theorist Murray Bookchin. In January 1987 she moved to Burlington, Vermont, to study further with Bookchin. They began a collaborative relationship to advance and promote social ecology.[1]

From 1987 to 2003 they co-wrote and co-published the theoretical newsletter Green Perspectives, later renamed Left Green Perspectives.[2] Biehl edited and compiled The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997), which Bookchin considered to be the best introduction to his work.[3] To summarize Bookchin's ideas on assembly democracy, known as libertarian municipalism, she wrote The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (1998). She wrote numerous articles about or related to Bookchin's ideas.

Since Bookchin's death in 2006, she authored Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin, published in 2015 by Oxford University Press. In 2011 Biehl separated from social ecology, explaining that she could no longer advocate an antistatist ideology.[4] She blogged at Ecology or Catastrophe.[5]

Kurdish freedom movement

Biehl is a supporter of the Kurdish freedom movement. After Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the insurgent Kurdistan Workers' Party, was captured and imprisoned in 1999, he became an avid reader of Bookchin's work in Turkish translation and recommended it to the movement. Drawing on libertarian municipalism, he formulated democratic confederalism as a political program, which the PKK adopted.[6] In 2004 several intermediaries tried to arrange a dialogue between Bookchin and Öcalan but were unsuccessful due to Bookchin's failing health.[7] In 2012 Biehl translated (from German to English) the book Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan by the solidarity group TATORT Kurdistan, a field study of democratic institutions built by the Kurdish movement in southeastern Turkey to implement democratic confederalism.[8]

In 2014 and 2015 she visited Rojava, the mostly Kurdish region of northern Syria. There the Kurdish movement is attempting, in wartime conditions, to implement democratic confederalism, gender equality, and ecology.[9] She published several articles about her visits.[10]

In October 2016 her translation of Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in Northern Syria, written by Michael Knapp, Anja Flach, and Ercan Ayboga, was published by Pluto Press. Biehl is currently translating (German to English) the three-volume memoirs of Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the PKK in 1978 and progenitor of today's strong Kurdish women's movement.

In the spring of 2019 Biehl returned to Rojava to work on a documentary film. She is currently writing and drawing a graphic novel about Rojava.

Selected works

  • Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics. Montreal: Black Rose Books. 1991. ISBN 0921689780.
  • Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. Edinburgh and San Francisco: AK Press. 1995. ISBN 1873176732.
  • Editor, The Murray Bookchin Reader. London: Cassell. 1997. ISBN 0304338745.
  • The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism. Montreal: Black Rose Books. 1998. ISBN 1551641003.
  • Mumford Gutkind Bookchin: The Emergence of Eco-decentralism. Porsgrunn, Norway: New Compass. 2011. ISBN 9788293064107.
  • Translator, Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan: A Reconnaissance into Southeastern Turkey: The Council Movement, Gender Liberation, and Ecology--in Practice. Porsgrunn, Norway: New Compass. 2013. ISBN 9788293064268.
  • Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin. New York: Oxford University Press. 2015. ISBN 0199342482.
  • Translator, Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in Northern Syria. London: Pluto Press. 2016. ISBN 978-0745336596.


  1. ^ "Janet Biehl: Short Biography & Selected Works". Canto Libertário. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  2. ^ "Left Green Perspectives (1988-1998)". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  3. ^ Biehl, Janet. "The Murray Bookchin Reader: Introduction". Anarchy Archives. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  4. ^ Biehl, Janet (April 13, 2011). "Biehl breaks with social ecology". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  5. ^ []
  6. ^ Janet Biehl, "Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy", New Compass (2012).
  7. ^ Ahmed, Akbar Shahid (December 18, 2015), "America's Best Allies Against ISIS Are Inspired By A Bronx-Born Libertarian Socialist", Huffington Post.
  8. ^ []
  9. ^ Wes Enzinna, "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard", New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015.
  10. ^ Biehl, "Rojava's Communes and Councils", January 31, 2015; "Revolutionary Education", February 7, 2015; "Rojava's Threefold Economy", February 25, 2015; "Thoughts on Rojava", February 16, 2016; and with others, "Joint Statement of the Academic Delegation", January 17, 2015.

External links