Lecture 2: Reframing the Economy

NOTE: These notes can be read in conjunction with the pdf of Lecture 2 powerpoint slides.

This lecture was based on Chapter 1: Reframing the Economy, Reframing Ourselves. But I wanted to cover this by discussing four main concepts that underpin Take Back the Economy (TBTE).

1. Capitalocentrism

This concept was first introduced in J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (as we knew it): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy and revisited in A Postcapitalist Politics. It is an essential underpinning of TBTE (pages 1 to 2 of powerpoint slides). I think it’s important to point out how so such much of our thinking is captured by the idea that “the economy” equals capitalism. We do not explicitly cover this in TBTE as we wanted to “move on” to talk about how people are building community economies that prioritise the wellbeing of people and the planet. But I think it is important to cover when teaching TBTE as it helps to bring into focus what’s novel about the approach taken in the book.

In this section of the lecture I wanted to give practical examples of capitalocentric thinking so used an extract of Steffen Böhm’s review of TBTE (from the journal Sociology, 2014) and an interview with David Harvey on the Occupy Movement and how he sees it in terms of the potential for a “comprehensive social movement” that might be able to resist capitalism (see page 2 of the powerpoint slides).

2.  The Diverse Economy

The antidote (if you like) to capitalocentrism is the diverse economy, captured in the iceberg image and the elaborated table (which is used in TBTE on pages 13 and 14). First, the diverse economy is a means of shrinking capitalism (or if you’re trained in Steve Resnick and Richard Wolff’s anti-essentialist Marxian thinking, it’s a way of replacing "capitalism" with the idea of a capitalist class process which pertains to capitalist enterprises, while leaving “the economy” open to all sorts of class processes. It's this training which makes me cringe whenever I hear capitalism talked about as if it is a real thing, big breath!). Second, the diverse economy is a means of making other sorts of economic activity more visible (and therefore enabling other types of economic politics) (pages 2 to 3 of the powerpoint slides).

At this point, we worked through The Diverse Economy, Chapter 1 Tool (the second tool on this page). Students worked in pairs to complete “The Diverse Economy of …”. Here are the students' finished tables.

3. The Community Economy

This is the all-important step of moving from the diverse economy to the community economy, and showing how economic diversity can be mobilised to build economies that respond to a range of ethical concerns (i.e. community economies) (page 3 of powerpoint slides - and the rest of the course!).

4. The Politics of Research

Finally, there is the idea that research (and writing) is a performative practice that can help bring into being not just new worlds, but the worlds we actually might want to live in and be a part of! In other contexts, we have written about what it means to conduct practical research in this mode, e.g. Cameron 2011, Cameron and Hicks 2014; Cameron and Wright 2014; Cameron, Gibson and Hill 2014; Gibson-Graham 2008; Gibson-Graham and Roelvink 2010. However, it’s just as much a part of how we have written TBTE, drawing on the three sorts of politics identified in the introduction to A Postcapitalist Politics: a politics of language, a politics of the subject and a politics of collective action. As I elaborate in the powerpoint slides (pages 3 to 5) these types of politics have heavily informed how we have written and structured TBTE.

Below, you will find Jenny's reflections on what worked well and not so well in this second lecture.