from PROGRESS IN POLITICAL ECONOMY:
I first became aware of the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham a few years ago, when a friend recommended that I read their seminal work The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A feminist Critique of Political Economy. Being instantly fascinated by what the book suggested, I bought a copy and began reading. Upon first attempt, however, I found it impenetrable. Over a year later, on second attempt, I managed to get through the book cover to cover. I found it an incredibly engaging and stimulating read. This is where Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson lay out their ontological and discursive agenda:
Theorising capitalism itself as different from itself – as having, in other words, no essential or coherent identity – multiplies (infinitely) the possibility of alterity. At the same time, re-contextualising capitalism in a discourse of economic plurality destabilises its presumptive hegemony.
A key insight from this work – capitalism’s ability to colonise discourse and effectively limit our ability to consider alternatives to capitalism – stayed with me, and informs my approach to researching and building alternatives to capitalism in my own academic and personal life. It is from this position that I was so interested to read their more recent work, Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming our Communities (here J.K. Gibson-Graham are joined by Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy as co-authors).
Moving from their ‘thick’ earlier discursive work, Take Back the Economy is a decidedly ‘thin’ work – almost all discussion of theory is conspicuously absent from this book. Indeed, this book is written as a straightforward, empirical guide for those on the left (or anyone really) who are tired of getting mired in theoretical debates and actually just want to get out there and start building a new economy. In this sense, this book is an admirable project. Pushing back against the logic of ‘there is no alternative’, the book, by providing lots of real-world examples of practicing alternatives, shows that there are in fact ‘many alternatives’.
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