Janet Biehl

Janet Biehl
Born (1953-09-04) September 4, 1953
Language English
Nationality American
Alma mater Institute for Social Ecology
Subject Social ecology
Literary movement Libertarian municipalism

Janet Biehl (born September 4, 1953)[1] is a political writer with a focus on libertarian municipalism[2] and social ecology, the body of ideas developed and publicized by Murray Bookchin. She also opposes eco-feminism.


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. She made her living as a copyeditor for major book publishers. She studied drawing and watercolor painting at the Art Students League of New York. 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.[3]


From 1987 to 2003 they co-wrote and co-published the theoretical newsletter Green Perspectives, later renamed Left Green Perspectives.[4] BIehl edited and compiled The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997), which Bookchin considered to be the best introduction to his work.[5] 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.[6] She blogs at Ecology or Catastrophe.

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.[7] In 2004 several intermediaries tried to arrange a dialogue between Bookchin and Öcalan but were unsuccessful due to Bookchin's failing health. (PDFs of the correspondence are published here). In 2012 Biehl translated (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.

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.[8] She published several articles about her visits.[9] 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.

Selected works


  1. "Biehl, Janet, 1953-". Library of Congress. Retrieved 25 January 2015. data sheet (b. 9-4-53)
  2. Biehl, Janet (1 January 1999). "The politics of social ecology: libertarian municipalism (ch. 1)". Article archive. Institute for Social Ecology.
  3. "Janet Biehl: Short Biography & Selected Works". Canto Libertário. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  4. "Left Green Perspectives (1988-1998)". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  5. Biehl, Janet. "The Murray Bookchin Reader: Introduction". Anarchy Archives. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  6. Biehl, Janet (April 13, 2011). "Biehl breaks with social ecology". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  7. Janet Biehl, "Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy," New Compass (2012), http://new-compass.net/articles/bookchin-%C3%B6calan-and-dialectics-democracy
  8. Wes Enzinna, "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard," New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/magazine/a-dream-of-utopia-in-hell.html?_r=0
  9. Biehl, "Rojava's Communes and Councils," January 31, 2015, http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/rojavas-communes-and-councils/; "Revolutionary Education," February 7, 2015, http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/revolutionary-education/; "Rojava's Threefold Economy," February 25, 2015, http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/rojavas-threefold-economy/; "Thoughts on Rojava," February 16, 2016, http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/thoughts-on-rojava/; and with others, "Joint Statement of the Academic Delegation," January 17, 2015, http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/joint-statement-delegation/
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