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Desire for/within Economic Transformation


With The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1996), J. K. Gibson-Graham won the hearts of many socialist, post-socialist, and queer-feminist readers. The book’s main argument is that new possibilities for economic transformation will arise once we no longer understand capitalism as a monolithic entity or as covering the whole range of existing economic practices. The argument is taken up again in the more recent book A Postcapitalist Politics: “As we begin to conceptualize contingent relationships where invariant logics once reigned, the economy loses its character as an asocial body in lawful motion and instead becomes a space of recognition and negotiation.” Gibson-Graham work systematically to establish the conditions for thinking through economy by other means, for developing other economies. In order to do so they combine a Foucauldian approach that focuses on self-technologies as a means of reproducing and/or transforming power relations and modes of governance, with “a counter-hegemonic project of constructing ‘other’ economies.”

Three elements are decisive for what they call “a politics of possibilities”; the three elements are thoroughly intertwined, and yet each may also become a point of entry for far-reaching, even global processes of transformation. First of all, they propose developing new forms of thinking, and, accordingly, a new economic language. They present this as working on the level of the political imaginary to invent a language of economic difference:

A capitalocentric discourse condenses economic difference, fusing the variety of noncapitalist economic activities into a unity in which meaning is anchored to capitalist identity. Our language politics is aimed at fostering conditions under which images and enactments of economic diversity . . . might stop circulating around capitalism, stop being evaluated with respect to capitalism, and stop being seen as deviant or exotic or excentric—departures from the norm.

Second, Gibson-Graham articulate “self-cultivation” as a means of encouraging forms of subjectivity that would be open to trying new economic practices: “If we want other worlds and other economies, how do we make ourselves a condition of possibility for their emergence?” Consequently, the third element is “the collaborative pursuit of economic experimentation.”

Read the full article here.