Editors' Introduction

Volume 32  Issue 3  July 2020

Since its inception, this journal has urged a pluralistic view of Marxisms. Rather than argue for an essential, deterministic, or orthodox version of one true Marxism, we have embraced an understanding of many different paths. One of these paths explores the complex connections between understanding and intervening in the world, both at the level of society and the level of the subject, to build new understandings, new subjectivities, and new possibilities for collective conditions.

While dependent on the foundational work of Resnick and Wolff, much of this scholarship has built upon the early interventions in this journal of Jack Amariglio and David Ruccio and, more particularly, J. K. Gibson-Graham, who marshaled feminist, poststructural, and Marxist theory to demonstrate that capitalism is not everywhere and everything; other economic subjects, relationships, and processes are always and already in the making. This performative intervention, coming at a time when neoliberal capitalism had reached its cultural zenith—when it was simply a matter of “common sense”—carved out theoretical and political space for a revolutionary ontological politics to be imagined and cultivated from and with an orientation of possibility.

A postcapitalist politics advanced not only a new theoretical model of economy—the diverse economy—but also a stance of openness, hope, repair, connection, and “weak” theory that refuses to know too much, in contrast to critical Marxist orientations that carry the affective weight of critique, cynicism, and strong theory that seeks to find out “what is really going on” in the world, thereby closing off possible lines of inquiry and action as or even before they have begun. Out of that work a broad range of scholarly efforts and special symposiums has emerged in the journal, focusing on varying aspects and processes of community economies and postcapitalisms (Postcapitalist Encounters with Class and Community, pt. 1, vol. 25, no. 4; pt. 2, vol. 26, no. 1); social and solidarity economies, cooperative practices, and worker cooperatives (Worker Cooperatives: A Class Analysis, vol. 23, no. 3; Transcending Capitalism through Cooperative Practices, vol. 32, no. 1); and subjectivities, diverse economies, and communism (Subjects of Economy, vol. 18, no. 2; Crafting Communism, vol. 27, no. 3). Of course, much work in these emerging traditions has also appeared in books and other journals. Taken together, what becomes apparent are emerging, and sometimes diverging, processes working to produce intellectual and activist interventions toward understanding and making imaginable and possible the production of other worlds.

The essays in this special issue, Gazing at Power in Community Economies, edited by Nate Gabriel, Eric Sarmiento, and Boone Shear, engage these approaches within Marxism in a supportive yet critical manner through a focus on power within all economic and social formations. As Gabriel and Sarmiento argue in “Troubling Power,” their introductory essay, “to change the world requires us to gaze at it in a way that embraces the fullness of political struggles in all of their multiplicity and emergent becoming. We wager that by definition this requires a heterogeneous and constantly evolving theoretical-practical landscape in (or should we say with) which to act.”

Tuomo Alhojärvi’s contribution, “Critical Gibson-Graham: Reading Capitalocentrism for Trouble,” begins this critical exploration by specifically suggesting that much diverse-economies scholarship today might be too optimistic about the potentials of these slightly altered economic formations. Perhaps the goal of being aspirational through advocating community economies has marginalized the needed critical gaze at those emerging formations. He articulates a concern that not enough of a critical gaze remains focused on the manifestations of capitalocentrism. Through exploring the wealth of scholarship broadly categorized as diverse and community economies, he argues that the critical analysis needed to understand and push those interventions in ways to decrease exploitation or uneven power relations is often lacking today. Without the critical focus on capitalocentrism, the work only engages parts of Gibson-Graham’s analysis and may constitute complicity with capitalocentrism. Therefore, Alhojärvi suggests a need for the community-economies project to be more focused upon the political work of engaging with power and violence in emancipatory projects.

In “Rethinking the Right to the City: DIY Urbanism and Postcapitalist Possibilities,” Nicole Foster argues for expanding the notions of the “right to the city” as more than its most commonly, currently constituted call for methods to ensure rights for homeless, poor, and marginalized people within urban spaces and places. Instead, drawing on research that explores DIY urbanism in Fort Worth, Texas, Foster argues that such citizen-led, nongovernmental interventions can help identify and develop noncapitalist possibilities within community members through the experiences of being in common, engaging collectively with others, and practicing generosity.

Taking these interventions in a different direction, Peter North, et al.’s focus on the constitutive powers of antagonism and anger in their essay “Generative Anger: From Social Enterprise to Antagonistic Economies” may be especially important to consider during this summer of 2020. Clearly, there is much anger and opposition to existing conditions in the world today. North and his coauthors argue that antagonisms such as these can be useful for generating possibilities for social and solidarity economies that also open up new possible solidarities (social, political, and economic). They focus on efforts of “taking back,” such as through recovered factories or community land trusts. However, it is not difficult to imagine from these efforts how their arguments might be extended to utilize antagonisms to build other solidarity networks, as well.

In their essay “Solidarity Interrupted: Coffee, Cooperatives, and Certification Conflicts in Mexico and Nicaragua,” Bradley R. Wilson and Tad Mutersbaugh offer a critical encounter with fair-trade discourses and practices. Through their long-term ethnographic research in two coffee cooperatives, they point out that actual solidarity and nonexploitation within what is certified as fair trade is often not easy to locate, as certification processes produce strains, despite the claims that cooperatives will produce more democratic structures and return a greater share of generated wealth to farmers. Wilson and Mutersbaugh argue for the need to reimagine and reformulate power relations within these certification processes and fair-trade networks in order to build more solidarity between network members and alter power relations.

Eric Sarmiento and Nate Gabriel’s essay returns to an analysis of the substantial scholarship within diverse- and community-economies literature. In “Becoming Genealogical: Power and Diverse Economies,” they offer a genealogy of this growing field of scholarship and argue that such an encounter with the efforts thus far can help develop further scholarship and activisms in new paths and in new manners that can help to forge more just political, economic, and ecological conditions.

The issue concludes with Stephen Healy’s essay, a review of Ethan Miller’s 2019 book, Reimagining Livelihoods: Life Beyond Economy, Society, and Environment. In his “Designing the Basis for Shared Survival, for Ourselves, with Others, and for Still Others Yet to Come,” Healy engages Miller’s concept of livelihood as a possible path for moving through and beyond the dominant imaginings regarding sustainability, development, economy, and society in order to make possible new ways of imagining, desiring, acting, and being.

Focusing both on Miller’s work in Maine and the Cooling the Commons project in Australia within which he is working, Healy suggests a multipronged effort. Unmaking ourselves by rethinking the very conceptual notions that guided much of twentieth-century life is one part of this effort. How do we break free of the humanistic notions of development and capitalism that have dominated popular imaginings for so long? Can we move beyond these imaginings of sustainable development and become a part of crafting spaces for thinking and desiring differently through what Miller coins as “livelihood”? Livelihood is imagined here as a space of new possibilities for reimagining how to be in common with both humans and those beings who are not human. But as Healy points out, for this to occur, we need human subjects who are able to think, to dream, to imagine, and to build these new livelihoods.

Taken together, these essays offer a powerful statement about the need and possibilities for unmaking the languages and practices that construct our current world and the possibilities for new desires, imaginings, practices, and relations. How can we come to think, understand, and act differently in relation to power in all its dimensions such that it becomes imaginable and possible to build new social conditions and live well together with all of the earth?

As life situations change, editorial board membership shifts as well. We would like to thank Enid Arvidson, Nicole Foster, and Phil Kozel for their thoughtful contributions to the journal over many years. They will be missed. We are pleased to welcome Matthew Flisfeder to the board and look forward to his contributions.

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