Power and Community Economies Research

Rethinking Marxism Cover

The most recent edition of the journal Rethinking Marxism is a special issue “Gazing at Power in Community Economies” edited by Community Economies Institute (CEI) members Nate Gabriel and Eric Sarmiento (with Boone Shear).

“This special issue grew out of a panel session at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston,” explain Gabriel and Sarmiento.

“We have long been concerned with the question of how we theorise power in diverse and community economies research, and with this panel session it quickly became clear that others were also grappling with this.”

“At this current juncture, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have brought into stark relief the legacy of long-standing inequalities and injustices, and highlight how it is crucial for community economies research and practice to consider what we might call the ‘fullness’ of political struggle.”

“Here we’re interested in moving beyond familiar class-based notions of power to tackle the ways that power knots and coalesces in certain configurations, flows through more or less clearly defined hierarchies, and enables some ways of being and relating at the expense of others.”

Along with the Gabriel and Sarmiento’s introduction, the five articles and one book review in this special issue examine concerns about power in a variety of ways.

The first article, by CEI member Tuomo Alhojärvi, explores what has happened to the foundational concept of 'capitalocentrism' (first introduced in 1996 by J.K. Gibson-Graham in The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It: A Feminist Critique of Political Economy) as community economies scholars have moved from an explicitly critical mode of engagement to a more affirmative and 'post/critical' register.

Nicole Foster then argues for expanding the idea of the 'right to the city' by focusing on how citizen-led, nongovernmental interventions, such as DIY Urbanism in Fort Worth, Texas, can help identify and develop noncapitalist possibilities within community members through the experiences of being in common, engaging collectively with others and practicing generosity.

Using the examples of taking back work through recovered factories and taking back land through community land trusts, CEI member Pete North and colleagues Vicky Nowak, Alan Southern and Matt Thompson show how angry opposition to constraining power relations can generate a politics of possibility.

Based on their ethnographic research coffee cooperatives in Mexico and Nicaragua, Bradley R. Wilson and Tad Mutersbaugh offer a critical encounter with fair-trade by showing how fair trade certification processes create pressures and demands that can undermine the relationships of solidarity that give rise to the cooperatives in the first place and that are needed for the cooperatives to continue to operate.

In their article, Sarmiento and Gabriel explore how an 'assemblage-inflected understanding of genealogy' can help community economies scholars to confront power in all its forms without falling victim to the melancholic narrative of capitalist domination that such a focus can often engender.

The special edition concludes with a review by CEI member Stephen Healy of Ethan Miller’s book Reimagining Livelihoods: Life Beyond Economy, Society, and Environment, in which Healy engages with Miller’s concept of livelihood as a possible path for moving beyond the dominant imaginings about sustainability, development, economy and society in order to make possible new ways of imagining, desiring, acting and being.

The introduction to the special issue can be downloaded here. Other articles can be accessed by clicking here, or by contacting the editors (c/o Nate Gabriel, nategab@geography.rutgers.edu) or the authors directly.

Jenny Cameron