University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
170 occurrences of ideology
[Clear Hits]

collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse section 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
109  collapse sectionV. 
29  collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 

170 occurrences of ideology
[Clear Hits]


A distinction should be made between two concepts
of man as a modifier of nature, for they have had a
separate, though often interlocking history: (1) man as
a planner of environmental change, as in constructing
a dam—evidence of this inventive, purposive behavior
and its effects (often called “control over nature”) has
generally come from the history of applied science and
technology; and (2) the idea of the indirect and the
unconscious modifier, which has come mainly from the
literature of natural history. That man is an uncon-
scious disturber of nature, an indirect transformer be-
cause of his ignorance of the causal chain of interfer-
ences, was observed long before the development of
modern ecology. According to a note in William
Derham's Physico-Theology (1798 ed.), colonists in
America tried to exterminate crows because the birds
harmed the corn, with the result that worms, cater-
pillars, and beetles increased. When the war on crows
stopped, they were relieved of the plague of insects
(Glacken, 1967).

The idea that men are bringers of order into the
natural world appears deeply imbedded in human
thought. Mircea Eliade, for example, in Cosmos and
History. The Myth of the Eternal Return
(trans. W.
Trask, 1959), has called attention to the act of
“cosmicizing” the environment: areas outside of man's
ken, remote from his settlement, are areas of chaos.
With settlement, with possession, a sacred and creative
act, the bringing of order, takes place. “The unculti-
vated zone is first 'cosmicized,' then inhabited.”

In classical times, the conception of man as a con-
troller of other kinds of life, as an intermediary gov-
erning and curbing the powers of plants and animals,
is clearly formulated. Without human control weeds,
brambles, and thickets might cover the earth; wild and
voracious animals, their numbers unchecked, do as they
will. How can man impose his will on the animals,
the docile and the ferocious alike? Philo the Jew (ca.
50 B.C.-A.D. 45) was obviously impressed by this power;
man is like a governor or a ship's pilot in guiding other
forms of life. In Judeo-Christian theology, the unique
ness of man, created by God in his image, gives him
power over the whole creation. It is indisputable that
the unique position of man in the creation—he was
the only creature in whom God took a strong personal
interest and made in his own image—has emphasized
in Christian thought the environment as a utility
created for man. Man has also been considered a
finisher of nature; God created the earth, and the
results were good but there was still opportunity for
man to develop his skills, accommodating the earth
to his needs and preferences.

In the Middle Ages, there were many observed in-
stances of unfavorable environmental changes as a
result of the exercise of customary rights of grazing
and forest clearance, but these cases were local in
nature and produced no synthesis. The most profound
contributions to this idea came in modern times. Buffon
made a remarkable interpretation of the effects of
human agency. He was impressed by the landscapes
of Europe transformed by man in contrast to the thinly
populated areas of the largely virgin New World. He
postulated (1778) seven epochs in the history of the
earth, the last being characterized by the active par-
ticipation of man in bringing it to its present state.
Man is thus an intruder in a natural order already
established in the previous six epochs. Though often
a destroyer, he is generally portrayed as an embellisher
of nature. Buffon had no taste for the state of nature,
and it was not difficult for him to choose between a
beautiful cultivated landscape in the French country-
side and a dense uninhabited forest of the New World.

The idea of the intruder was also basic to the work
of the American George P. Marsh, Man and Nature
(1864); but man appeared to him predominantly as a
destroyer of his natural environment. Marsh's ideas of
the power of human intrusions in the natural order
opposed the view that man is a weak geological agent
compared to other geological forces changing the
earth—volcanoes, earthquakes, streams—and objected
to the environmentalists who insisted upon the influ-
ence of environment on man as an organizing principle
in the study of man's relation to nature. Marsh's Man
and Nature
assumed a primordial balance in nature,
which without man's interference tends to self-
restoration—even with great natural catastrophes up-
setting the balance—with plants and animals, partici-
pating in the healing process, for unlike man they do
not initiate irreversible processes. Thus human history
may be viewed as a continuous series of intrusions—
often irreversible—into the natural order, first by
means of plant and animal domestication, then by
clearing the woods, and by interfering with the waters,
as in stream diversion, or with the sands as in dune
fixation (Marsh, 1965; Lowenthal, 1958).


Though Marsh seems to have arrived at his idea of
a balance in nature independently of Darwin, it is
similar to the web of life concept; but Darwin is basi-
cally concerned with the web of life as a product of
evolution, Marsh as a basis from which to measure the
influences of man. The web of life, the biocenose, the
biotic community, the ecosystem—all terms relating
to the same kinds of concept—have broadened and
deepened the opportunities for studying the relation
of nature and culture, particularly changes in the natu-
ral order. New perspectives were opened up: (1) in
these circumstances, balance and harmony implied
fragility, delicacy, and susceptibility so that man, far
from being overwhelmed by the environment, could
initiate irreversible processes that would destroy the
environment for human use and thus make man the
victim of a new environment brought into being by
him; (2) since he was an intruder in an order tending
toward harmony and balance, science and ethics, as
well as concern for his own well-being, called upon
him to be a steward of nature whose power in the
creation of changes entailed responsibilities; and (3) it
called attention not only to the directive force of man
on the evolution of animals, plants, and man himself,
but also to the continuously intensifying imprint of
human values on the landscape. With accumulating
knowledge of the long history of environmental
changes by human agency, students increasingly have
described them in ecological terms. By the first decade
of the twentieth century—scarcely seventy years after
Sir Charles Lyell had described man as a weak geolog-
ical agent—several geologists were calling man the
dominant geological force of the planet. Terms like
the “psychozoic era,” “anthropozoic era,” and “the
mental era” were used to characterize this new geo-
logical period, anticipating the thesis of Edouard Le
Roy, W. I. Vernadsky, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
a generation later that the world was no longer a
biosphere but a noösphere (Glacken, 1956). Carl
Ortwin Sauer's writings (selections in Land and Life;
Agricultural Origins and Dispersals,
1963) made im-
portant contributions to the study of modifications of
nature by man; he consistently emphasized their antiq-
uity, the significance of fire, the wider implications of
domestication, the role of human agency in dissemi-
nating plants and animals, and man as a highly selective
appraiser of resources. Finally, Chardin, in many of
his writings, notably The Phenomenon of Man, em-
ployed the word noösphere to describe the “human-
ized” earth as a planet now under the directive force
of mind; to him, the human race, in the time perspec-
tive of earth history, is still relatively new and inex-
perienced, and Chardin can thus reserve judgment on
the enormous volume of pessimistic literature and
observation which has accumulated since the days of
Marsh, attaining new momentum with the Midwest
dust storms of 1934, and the broadening scope of
post-World War II developments.

Many contemporary ideas have grown out of the
unparalleled destruction of the last hundred years—of
primitive peoples and wildlife, out of deforestation and
soil erosion, and as a result of the creation of industrial
landscapes, we have witnessed the deterioration of
urban environments. Accompanying these changes has
been a growing understanding of them because of the
gradual refinement of ecological ideas and the ecosys-
tem concept as it is understood today. The changes
do not appear as unrelated and discrete events. One
must, however, distinguish between understanding and
its dissemination, for ecologic theory still had an ex-
tremely limited influence on the world until the 1960's.
Among thinkers friendly to the ecological point of
view, viz., that the power of human agency has been
so great and all-pervading, there has been a reversal
of roles; the ecosystem concept is used very frequently
to dramatize the fragility of nature, a natural environ-
ment at the mercy of human needs expressed in eco-
nomic systems, cultural factors, religious belief, values,
or lack of them. It is a moving experience to compare
Marsh's Man and Nature with the symposium volume,
dedicated to him, Man's Role in Changing the Face
of the Earth
which appeared in 1956.

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that
there should be interest also in environmental questions
other than those of an economic, utilitarian, or purely
scientific nature, that there should be interest in envi-
ronmental perception, nature imagery, in scenery, in
preservation, whether it is an old quarter in a city or
an old oak. The desire to preserve unique forms,
whether wilderness, redwoods, or erratic blocks left by
glaciers, would seem to be a recognition of variety and
historical depth as indispensable elements of civili-
zation. Moreover, the interest in wilderness, Roderick
Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind (1967), for
example, has reopened questions about the meaning
of nature to man which hitherto had been prominent
only in anthologies on romanticism. The present-day
concern for aesthetics of landscape (e.g., Paul Shepard's
Man in the Landscape, 1967) may be compared with
the same kinds of questions raised by the romantics
and by men like John Ruskin and William Morris, by
the creation of industrial landscapes like the Coketown
which Dickens described in the fifth chapter of Hard
(Burton, 1968; Lowenthal, 1961).

There is every indication that the literature con-
cerned with the relation of culture to environment will
appear in ever-increasing volume. The more thoughtful
and more profound of these writings will be concerned,


as they have been in the past, with the meaning and
value not only of human but of all life, with the envi-
ronments that support them, and with deeper under-
standings of the dazzling variety in attitudes toward
nature still held throughout the world today.