The Sprawling Global Lawns of the Emerald Isle: A Dialectical Unfolding

Eemon Slater


This article explores how the suburban front lawn is a special type of space, where society engages intensely with nature. Involved in this exchange are complex relationships between diverse networks of metabolizing processes. These processes include the natural process of grass growth, the labour process of ‘improving upon nature’, the process of harnessing nature for aesthetic designs and the commoditization process, in which ‘natural’ inputs are bought and brought into the front lawn. It is Marx’s concept of socio-ecological metabolism that allows the analysis to avoid both naturalism and social constructionism as the sole determinants of the grass lawn. Its actual determinant is how these contrasting processes metabolize with each other within the labour process of gardening. Consequently as much as we attempt to dominate nature in our lawn endeavours all we achieve is to thwart some of the natural tendencies of the grass ecosystem, but it’s essential natural laws continue to exist. Thus thwarting is merely concerned with imposing an aesthetic form on this particular type of grass ecosystem we call the suburban lawn. To uncover these complex relationships it is necessary to engage in a dialectical analysis.


Suburbanization; Ireland; Ecocriticism; Marxism

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549