Negotiating interdependence and anxiety in community economies

Gradon Diprose

The burgeoning literature on diverse and community economies has been relatively hopeful, exploring how people learn, enact new and reclaim other ways of meeting their needs outside of capitalist practices. For good reasons, much of this work has sought to avoid a conventional critical-leftist orientation, instead adopting what Gibson-Graham call a ‘weak theory’ approach ‘that welcomes surprise, entertains hope, makes connection, tolerates coexistence and offers care for the new’. Within this literature until recently, less attention has been given to how community economy collectives negotiate the everyday ethical dilemmas to enact interdependence. In this article, I draw on Jean Luc Nancy’s understandings of subjectivity and what he terms an ‘inoperative community’ to explore the everyday anxieties and relational tensions in the Wellington Timebank, a community economy in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I use Nancy’s framing of the inoperative community and Gibson-Graham’s engagement with his ideas as a lens to explore the ethical tensions involved in enacting community economies. I show how Nancy’s ideas help us to better understand the apparent contradictions experienced in communities, by exploring the tensions between community myths of diversity and labour equality, which are unworked and interrupted by everyday anxieties and fears. This is not to suggest that community economies like the Wellington Timebank are a failure, but rather that openly discussing such examples help us as researchers to better understand the everyday tensions collectives necessarily negotiate in enacting interdependence.

Suggested citation

Diprose, G. 2016. "Negotiating Interdependence and Anxiety in Community Economies." Environment and Planning A, 48(7): 1411-1427.