‘The Focus Has to be on Helping People Make a Living’: Exploring Diverse Economies and Alternative Economic Spaces



The last decade has brought forth substantial growth in the study of diverse economies and alternative economic spaces within the field of geography. The publication of Gibson-Graham’s (1996) groundbreaking work The end of capitalism (as we knew it): a feminist critique of political economy was essential for creating a space in which researchers could explore economic alternatives and bring into being the diverse economies research program. In this article, I first explore the ‘birth’ of the diverse economies research program. Then, I examine the critical mass of scholarship in which geographers, as well as researchers in other fields, have begun ‘reading for difference’ in the economic landscape. Finally, I consider criticisms of this literature as well as new intellectual pathways for research, focusing primarily on the role of the state and circuits of value. In many ways, literature on diverse economies and alternative economic spaces may seem polarized between believers and skeptics. However, this polarization has been fruitful. In essence, it has prevented ‘blindness’ in this field of study. Geographers continue to refine what constitutes a diverse economy and alternative economic space, and there is recognition of continuing need for further development of ideas and refinement of existing knowledge.