In the 1990s, two feminist geographers named Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson began writing under the shared moniker “J.K. Gibson-Graham,” and with their work they begun to apply understandings from feminist schools of thought to economics.
According to Gibson-Graham, rather than saying “the economy,” we ought to be saying, “economies,” as in: there are diverse economies all around us that we’ve been directed away from seeing and acknowledging.
Just as feminism has taught us to avoid essentalizing gender (and rather urges us to treat sex and gender as separate), the diverse economies model pushes us to avoid essentializing “the economy.”
As Gibson-Graham point out, the capitalist finance economy is mistakenly treated like the only economy. This economy (called “The Economy”) began to be treated as if it were a force of nature in the 1970s, when, at that time, news broadcasts started treating stock ticker numbers as if they had the same sort of material reality as weather reports (Gibson-Graham 2005). But the economy isn’t a force of nature. Rather it is a performance. The economy is performative. Just like gender.
In acknowledging the diverse economies all around us, we grow better at seeing and making sense of the many other types of labor relations that exist outside of high finance circles. These are frequently unpaid, informal, and pirate relationships, pushed out of the public eye and dismissed for being “feminine” or “just a hobby” or “criminal.”
Evoking a diverse economies model is a way to invite these other performances of economy into our social practices of acknowledging and each other’s work. Diverse economies include barter, trade, volunteerism, localized time-dollars, dumpster-diving, freeganism, photosynthesis, and a number of other relations that exist outside of finance capital.
It’s time to stop treating the problems of the investor class as if they are the only economy, and strengthen and acknowledge the many other economies through which labor, care, and goods get passed around.
Further reading by J.K. Gibson-Graham:
-Take Back the Economy!
-The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) A Feminist Critique of Political Economy.
-A Postcapitalist Politics.
-“Economy” from New Keywords: A Revised -Vocabulary of Culture and Society.
-And also by Lawerence Grossburg: Chapter 4 of Cultural Studies in the Future Tense