Michael Potts has recently published an article in Tolkien Studies that looks at the influence of Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West on Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings. Spengler formulated a complex and immensely influential argument that civilisation was cyclical – it grew in a particular environment or soil, bloomed and then declined and withered as the ideals that sustained it exhausted themselves and decay and decline set in. Tolkien fans will obviously recognise the applicability of this to the world of Middle Earth, with the proud but declining empire of Gondor about to fall as evening falls on the West in Middle Earth. The article can be accessed online at Project Muse: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/641284/pdf, and also at his Academia page.
Potts also has a book chapter due out in April of this year in Violence Against Black Bodies, published by Routledge and edited by Sandra Weissinger, Elwood Watson, and Dwayne Mack. The chapter is titled ‘”The Multicultural Dilemma”: Ignoring Racism in the Works of James Howard Kunstler’ and asks hard questions about blindness to racism and the lack of diversity in the environmental movement, following Dorceta Taylor’s groundbreaking 2014 study The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations.
His chapter uses the example of novelist, blogger and frequent guest on the university lecture circuit, James Howard Kunstler, to explore this issue. With reference to his frequent blog posts and lectures, I show that in Kunstler’s books such as The Long Emergency and Too Much Magic a discussion of the challenges of sustainability, climate change and resource depletion slides from diagnosis to a critique of modern, multicultural society that identifies ethnic minorities with violence and criminality and inveighs for a return to a hierarchical society governed by putatively responsible white men.
Given the blatant nature of Kunstler’s attacks on ethnic minorities and multiculturalism in general, I ask how it is that those who review his books and book him for lectures and appearances, can remain blind to the racism in his work. I suggest that the lack of diversity in the environmental movement sometimes leads to a form of blindness in which unpleasant or jarring suggestions or insinuations are “written off” as aberrations, rather than interrogated and analysed.