© Antipode Foundation
Edited By: Nik Theodore, Sharad Chari, Vinay Gidwani, Katherine McKittrick and Jenny Pickerill
Impact Factor: 2.43
ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2012: 7/72 (Geography)
Online ISSN: 1467-8330
The Editor's of Antipode invite you to explore the following virtual issues presenting a collection of content relating to the Antipode lectures presented at RGS-IBG.
NEW! ECOLOGIES IN, AGAINST AND BEYOND CAPILTALISM
Antipode Editorial Collective
Lecture given by Bruce Braun
IMAGINING AND ENACTING COMMUNITY ECONOMIES
Antipode Editorial Collective
Lecture given by Katherine Gibson
Antipode Editorial Collective
It’s 40 years since David Harvey’s Social Justice and the City was published. Chapter four, ‘Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary theory in geography...’ (which first appeared in Antipode 4), marks the transition from the ‘Liberal formulations’ of part one to the ‘Socialist formulations’ of part two, and is as forthright an essay as one could hope to see. It surges forward, ruthlessly criticising geography as it was then constituted: “There is an ecological problem, an urban problem, an international trade problem, and yet we seem incapable of saying anything of depth or profundity about any of them” (2009: 129, 1972: 6). Much has changed in those four decades, and radical geographers have a great deal to say about these (indivisible or inseparable, rather than individual, to be sure) issues, and here we’d like to celebrate Antipode’s role as a forum for the development of some of this research and scholarship.
The occasion is the 2013 Antipode RGS-IBG lecture, presented by Bruce Braun August 2013. Bruce is Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Intemperate Rainforest: Nature, Culture, and Power on Canada’s West Coast (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), and co-editor of Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millennium (Routledge, 1998) and Social Nature: Theory, Practice, and Politics (Blackwell, 2001) with Noel Castree, and Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) with Sarah Whatmore. He is also one of the editors of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers and the new interdisciplinary journal Resilience: International Policies, Practices, and Discourses.
Bruce’s work on eco-politics, political ecology, biosecurity, new materialisms, and the city will be well known to many readers of Antipode. His essay in David Harvey: A Critical Reader (a title in the Antipode Book Series) is a powerful examination of the ‘strange proximity’ between the materialist social theories of Harvey and Deleuze and Guattari (the former dialectical, the latter immanentist), exploring ontologies and their political consequences, and his contribution to Antipode’s review symposium on Sarah Whatmore’s Hybrid Geographies is as clear a statement on materialist and immanentist philosophy, and why it matters, as you will find. Read it before tackling Ozan Karaman’s ‘An immanentist approach to the urban’ - an accomplished piece of scholarship putting Louis Althusser to work to think about capitalism and the city in important new ways. Much like Bruce, Ozan argues that “[a]n adequate conceptualisation (production) of this object has profound political implications...” (p.1302).
We welcome materialists both ‘new’ and ‘historical’ in Antipode and you’ll find some classic essays on the production of nature in the archive, including Neil Smith and Phil O’Keefe’s ‘Geography, Marx, and the concept of nature’, which contains ideas later developed in Neil’s seminal Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space (3rd edn, University of Georgia Press, 2008) and Noel Castree’s ‘The nature of produced nature: Materiality and knowledge construction in Marxism’, which considers the limits to some of these ideas and sketches out (still) interesting directions for future research.
More recently there’s been a series of special issues of Antipode as green as they are red, including James McCarthy and Julie Guthman’s ‘Nature and capital in the American west’ (which is home to George Henderson’s gripping essay, ‘Nature and fictitious capital: The historical geography of an agrarian question’, looking at natural processes as both ‘obstacles’ and ‘opportunities’ for capitalist development, nature as both ‘invitation’ and ‘barrier’ to capital); Becky Mansfield’s ‘Privatization: Property and the remaking of nature-society relations’ (which includes essays by Scott Prudham on new biotechnologies and the commodification of life itself [individual genes, biological processes, even whole organisms]; Karen Bakker on the governance of water and anti-privatisation activism [looking at the deployment of ideas about the human right to water and ‘commons’]; and Morgan Robertson on the marketisation of ecosystem services and the possibility of progressive intervention); and Erik Swyngedouw and Nik Heynen’s ‘Urban political ecology, justice, and the politics of scale’ (don’t miss Erik and Nik’s [often-cited] programmatic introduction).
We return to questions of justice in another special issue, ‘Spaces of environmental justice’ (edited by Ryan Holifield, Michael Porter and Gordon Walker). As well as Hilda Kurtz’s ‘Acknowledging the racial state: An agenda for environmental justice research’, standing out is Ryan Holifield’s ‘Actor-network theory as a critical approach to environmental justice: A case against synthesis with urban political ecology’ – an essay assessing two different materialist philosophies (namely, Marxism and actor-network theory) for environmental justice research. (And for a not unrelated argument that reaches rather different conclusions, see Noel Castree’s ‘False antitheses? Marxism, nature, and actor-networks’.)
Capitalism’s self-presentations as saviour, rather than cause of injustices, are anatomised in two, more recent special issues: Emily Boyd, Max Boykoff and Peter Newell’s ‘The “new” carbon economy’ (which examines the constitution, governance and effects of carbon markets, asking “[a]re we witnessing a routine attempt by the social forces of capital to render the challenge of climate change non-threatening to, and even profitable for, its accumulation objectives, or is there evidence of deeper processes of transformation at work? What limits are suggested by the nature of carbon itself...? How do people resist, engage with and imagine the new carbon economy?” [p.610]); and Dan Brockington and Rosaleen Duffy’s ‘Capitalism and conservation’ (which explores alliances between capitalism and conservation where, in these neoliberal times, problems become opportunities and would-be obstacles become accumulation strategies). (For more on new carbon economies and capitalism and conservation, see Patrick Bond’s ‘Emissions trading, new enclosures and eco-social contestation’ and Sian Sullivan’s ‘Banking nature? The spectacular financialisation of environmental conservation’.)
We close with three essays looking at what Bruce might call nature “...in the making,...an effect of the forces and practices that constitute it, in ways that cannot simply be ‘undone’” (2006: 206). Becky Mansfield’s ‘Is fish health food or poison? Farmed fish and the material production of un/healthy nature’ considers “the material production of fish...the multiple and interacting biochemical and social processes that make individual fish bodies what they are” (p.415) - and not just fish bodies but aquatic environments and human bodies also - as aquaculture (as opposed to capture fisheries) has grown in recent decades leading to the production of “a materially different” (p.423), and not unproblematic, fish. In ‘Breeding influenza: The political virology of offshore farming’, rather than a straightforward narrative of nature versus science, of a conflict “between viral evolution and humanity’s capacity to produce adequate vaccines and antivirals” (p.919), Robert Wallace tells a more complicated tale, charting recent developments in poultry production; explaining why bird flu emerged when and where it did; and offering some radical solutions to a global problem. “None of the broader factors shaping influenza evolution and drug response can be found underneath the microscope” (p.944); what we need, he effectively argues, are analyses of ‘multiple and interacting biochemical and social processes’. Finally, Vinay Gidwani and Raj Reddy’s ‘The afterlives of “waste”: Notes from India for a minor history of capitalist surplus’ attends to “the things, places, and lives that are cast outside the pale of ‘value’ at particular moments as superfluity, remnant, excess, or detritus; only to return at times in unexpected ways” (p.1625). Via a detour through Lockean political theory, British colonial rule, and discourses of ‘wasteful’ Indian natures, we’re confronted with a present in which practices of ‘eviscerating urbanism’ render certain bodies and spaces superfluous and excessive; some to be salvaged and incorporated, others placed beyond the limits of political life, expelled, abandoned, irredeemable.
Braun B (2006) Towards a new earth and a new humanity: Nature, ontology, politics. In N Castree and D Gregory (eds) David Harvey: A Critical Reader (pp191-222). Oxford: Blackwell
Harvey D (1972) Revolutionary and counter revolutionary theory in geography and the problem of ghetto formation. Antipode 4(2):1-13
Harvey D (2009) Social Justice and the City (new edn). Athens: University of Georgia Press
Writing geographies of hope
Bruce Braun (2005)
An immanentist approach to the urban
Ozan Karaman (2012)
Geography, Marx, and the concept of nature
Neil Smith and Phil O’Keefe (1980)
The nature of produced nature: Materiality and knowledge construction in Marxism
Noel Castree (1995)
Nature and fictitious capital: The historical geography of an agrarian question
George Henderson (1998)
Urban political ecology, justice, and the politics of scale
Erik Swyngedouw and Nik Heynen (2003)
Acknowledging the racial state: An agenda for environmental justice research
Hilda Kurtz (2009)
False antitheses? Marxism, nature, and actor-networks
Noel Castree (2002)
The ‘new’ carbon economy: What’s new?
Emily Boyd, Maxwell Boykoff and Peter Newell (2011)
Capitalism and conservation: The production and reproduction of biodiversity conservation
Dan Brockington and Rosaleen Duffy (2010)
Emissions trading, new enclosures, and eco-social contestation
Patrick Bond (2012)
Banking nature? The spectacular financialisation of environmental conservation
Sian Sullivan (2013)
Is fish health food or poison? Farmed fish and the material production of un/healthy nature
Becky Mansfield (2011)
Breeding influenza: The political virology of offshore farming
Robert Wallace (2009)
The afterlives of ‘waste’: Notes from India for a minor history of capitalist surplus
Vinay Gidwani and Rajyashree Reddy (2011)
Antipode Editorial Collective
“What if we were to accept that the goal of thinking is not to extend knowledge by confirming what we already know, that the world is a place of domination and oppression? What if instead we thought about openings and strategic possibilities in the cracks?”
(Gibson-Graham 2012: 37)
To celebrate Katherine Gibson’s 2012 Antipode RGS-IBG lecture, ‘Take Back the Economy, Any Time, Any Place: Pedagogies for Securing Community Economies’, we’re pleased to present this virtual issue, ‘Imagining and Enacting Community Economies’.
Katherine’s work is well known within and beyond Anglophone human geography. From The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It), through A Postcapitalist Politics (both co-authored, as J.K. Gibson-Graham [2006a; 2006b], with Julie Graham), to her latest book, Take Back the Economy, Any Time, Any Place (Jenny Cameron, J.K. Gibson-Graham and Stephen Healy, forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press), Katherine’s theorisations, discussions, and representations of what she calls ‘economic diversity’ have been, and remain, inspiring for those struggling to imagine and enact more sustainable, socially just, and - frankly - sane futures.
We hesitate to reduce such a wealth of work to an epigraph - not least because Katherine is a strict anti-reductionist! - but the one above captures the sheer ambition of the project so well, a project about nothing less than rethinking radical academic labour and its effects. Despite all the ink spilled over the irrelevance and obscurity of so much academic discourse, our anatomisations of ‘the capitalist economy’, ‘neoliberalism’, and the rest, Katherine and colleagues in the Community Economies Collective argue, are formidably consequential. Why? Because they produce a rather too exclusive understanding of ‘the economy’ - one indifferent, or blind, to the extent and contribution of alternative ways of economic life. When we discover that a dominant and oppressive capitalism ‘out there’ in the world is the only game in town, what we create ‘in here’ in our heads is a sense of hopelessness; noncapitalism is improbable (if not, perhaps, impossible), right?! Our tools for reflecting capitalist presents get more and more sophisticated, yet when it comes to effecting noncapitalist futures the anti-capitalist imagination is arguably impoverished. Our store of techniques is seriously - embarrassingly - understocked; we search for alternatives and come up empty-handed. It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of…
So, Katherine and colleagues urge us to do something which seems straightforward enough, but is in fact incredibly difficult: to see landscapes of real and credible economic difference; to see all kinds of viable and vital economic life in the world. Community economies where interdependence is recognised and respected and a commons produced and sustained, are not just possible- they’re present and proximate. Other values such as mutual aid, reciprocity, co-operation, and collaboration aren’t just ludicrous or utopian future goals - they’re perfectly realistic, here and now. And this is what taking the economy back means - reclaiming it, framing and constructing it as something open to our interventions, amenable to our ethics and politics, responsive to our contestations. Rather than either ignoring actually existing noncapitalisms as ‘peripheral’ and ‘marginal’, or disparaging them as ‘unconvincing’ and ‘inconsequential’, what about focusing on, and learning from, them? Rather than dismissing them, or writing them off, as inadequate vis-à-vis (or always already co-opted by) that which is ‘dominant’, what about struggling to make them more real, more viable? This is an academic practice which doesn’t judge and condemn but, rather, comprehends; one which is open, welcoming, receptive, and hospitable to economic diversity. What if the Left’s task were not - or not just - to criticise and undo, but to experiment and develop? What if social research was less about capturing and assessing one sort of reality than about bringing other sorts into existence? What if, that is to say, it was intentionally, and radically, performative?
Terry Eagleton once said, in his book Ideology, that “any practice of political emancipation…involves that most difficult of all forms of liberation, freeing ourselves from ourselves” (1991:xii-xiv, emphasis added). And just as we shouldn’t have our heads in the sands about the possibility of alternative economies, so too we shouldn’t have our heads in the clouds about their difficulty. Gibson-Graham answer their own question, “[h]ow do we become not merely opponents of capitalism, but subjects who can desire and create ‘noncapitalism’?” (2006b: xxxv-xxxvi) with the concept of ‘resubjectivation’. “[T]he difficult process of cultivating subjects (ourselves and others) who can desire and inhabit noncapitalist economic spaces” (Gibson-Graham 2006a: x) involves the production of new dispositions to act and, perhaps more importantly, be acted upon. It’s hard work, lest we underestimate it, to be affected, put in motion, by noncapitalist alternatives: “opening to what can be learned from what is happening on the ground…we are being called to read the potentially positive futures barely visible in the present order of things, and to imagine how to strengthen and move them along” (Gibson-Graham and Roelvink 2010:342). This inclination to interpret the world differently, asking not ‘what is to be done?’ but, rather, ‘what is already being done?’ (2010: 331), and propensity to proliferate possibilities is hard won: “representations of existing and potential alternatives to capitalism may begin to resonate, to generate affect, to interpellate subjects, to ignite desire. In other words, they may become compelling” (Gibson-Graham 2006a: 21), but, of course, they may not. We’re too often “reluctant subjects” (Gibson-Graham 2006b: 23), unwilling or unable to experiment and develop. Let’s hope the papers collected together here loosen us up (at least a bit), help us see openings, and provide a space of freedom and possibility.
We open with Julie Graham’s (1990) ‘Theory and essentialism in Marxist geography’. It’s an excellent example of what we might call, borrowing the philosopher Roy Bhaskar’s words, philosophical ‘underlabouring’ for diverse economies. Oriented to their flourishing rather than mere existence, it clears the ground, removing some of the blocks that lie in the way to imagining and enacting them, and creating what Gibson-Graham will later call a ‘discursive space’. The critique of essentialism, of the presumption that a complex reality can be reduced to a simpler, ‘essential’, one, its essence or origin, lies at the heart of the community economies project. Rather than trying to identify a single cause or reason - ‘Capitalism’, for example - anti-essentialism explores multiple determinations. Places are emergent from and irreducible to myriad processes; they’re totalities where each process is constituted by and constitutive of (‘overdetermined and overdetermining’) all other processes, where every cause is an effect and vice versa.
Graham’s paper proved controversial, and next we move on to some responses and replies. Richard Peet (1992), for one, posed some difficult questions. To Peet’s mind, arguing for an understanding of causation in which ‘everything affects and is affected by everything else’ might well be a useful reminder for an essentialist/reductionist straw-man, yet unhelpful for the rest of us insofar as it’s rather too monist. One can accept the existence of a differentiated world - a world where each process constitutes and is constituted by all others - but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the language of ‘significant’ and ‘less significant’ determinations be abandoned. (As Jim Glassman  puts it in his contribution to this virtual issue, social phenomena are both overdetermined [the product of many determinations…] and overdetermined […the relative efficacy of which can be practically evaluated - always an empirical question].) In other words, the critique of essentialism isn’t very dialectical: saying that some things ‘matter’ more, are more ‘important’, than others in the determination of a phenomenon isn’t necessarily reducing it to - or, if you prefer, identifying it with - them. It’s plainly not a matter of some things being ‘essential’ and others ‘inessential’; one can be hierarchical without being essentialist, that is, and still eschew the discourse of singular ‘essences’ and ‘origins’?
Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff’s (1992) reply to Peet argues that while he focuses on the question of ‘significance’, anti-essentialists are more concerned with meaning: a process - again, think of ‘big C’ capitalism - means nothing, practically, without (or independent of) all other processes. As they see it, anti-essentialism creates rather than destroys: to relate processes to each other and investigate their interaction and interdependence is not to see them blur and lose definition as they sink into a flat mire, but to see them concretised, to see them with content. Only through interaction and interdependence do processes ‘live’ and become causal forces in the world.
Julie Graham’s (1992) reply waxes epistemological as well as ontological: “I understand knowledge as effective (rather than reflective) and social life as decentered and infinitely complex” (p. 149). Our knowledges don’t just represent the world - they’re implicated in it also, and we do ourselves, and it, a great disservice when we forget that. Compare Ronald Horvath and Katherine Gibson’s (1984) ‘Abstraction in Marx’s method’ - an early piece on the ‘reconstruction and extension’ of Marxism to help social scientists complete concrete analyses of concrete situations, in particular crises of and transitions within/between modes of production. It’s a good example of work seeking to understand and explain in order to change, struggling to see things ‘as they really are’, which is very different from Katherine and Julie’s later interventions.
Now we slide from the slippery ice of philosophical debate to the rough ground of actually existing noncapitalisms. Andrew Leyshon (2005) introduces a symposium on diverse economies with what is from the current conjuncture a very interesting discussion of what he calls “alternative economic repertoires” (p. 858) mobilised during crises. (Economic diversity mitigates the effects of market and state failure, he argues.) Writing in the mid 2000s, he asks “what is the prospect for diversity initiatives in a world where neoliberalism is so strong, both materially and ideologically?” (p. 860). How might we, one wonders, be sensitive to “the proliferative nature of economic life” (p. 859) now it’s on the ropes? Ann Oberhauser’s (2005) ‘Scaling gender and diverse economies: Perspectives from Appalachia and South Africa’ presents a concrete analysis of a concrete situation in which “diverse livelihood strategies” (p. 867) are rolled out, and proliferate, in times of crisis, while Michael Samers’ (2005) contribution to the symposium, ‘The myopia of “diverse economies”, or, A critique of the “informal economy”’, explores whether Leyshon, Oberhauser, and others are making a virtue out of necessity. Is ‘alternative’ synonymous with ‘progressive’? Is diversity always a good thing, something to be celebrated?
Kevin St Martin’s (2007) paper explores the persistence of noncapitalism in the fishing industry of New England. What are too often seen as ‘barriers’ to neoliberalisation (or, worse, as ‘archaic’ or ridiculously ‘deficient’, hopelessly ‘problematic’, etc.) might well be seen as foundations of an alternative economy (such as a share system of compensation and a common property resource in fisheries) - an alternative class process of surplus production, appropriation, and distribution. St Martin’s conclusion is particularly powerful: “While…[studies of enclosure, privatisation, neoliberalisation, etc. - Antipode’s bread and butter?!] are important and vital studies by which we can better understand the formation of capitalist futures in fisheries, they tell us little about the existing and persistent noncapitalist economy of fisheries and its potentials, nor do they tell us what, precisely, is lost with the transition to capitalism or how that transition happens in terms of class processes or economic subjectivities” (p. 544).
Janelle Cornwell’s (2012) ‘Worker co-operatives and spaces of possibility’ presents a project “to uncover or excavate the possible” (p. 728) - a study of the production of space and time, through practices rooted in consensus-based decision-making and negotiation, in a collectively-owned shop. Her argument is that “co-operative/communal work spaces…cultivate powerful subjective transformations” (p. 741): practices like consensus-based decision-making ‘interpellate’, to use an Althusserian word, subjects, bringing them into existence.
Kelvin Mason and Mark Whitehead (2012) don’t use the language of diverse economies but their work on ‘the contested politics of ethical place making’ is nonetheless interesting and important. They present a constructively critical engagement with the Transition Culture movement - that is, a movement concerned with the production of resilient places at a time when the related problems of peak oil and climate change loom large. Transition Culture institutes an urbanism where care at a distance means decreasing dependence on distant places, and a moral geography of increased care for vulnerable proximate others is emphasised. Mason and Whitehead stage a dialogue between critical-geographic theory and the movement, mobilising what they call a ‘supportive’ critique.
We close this virtual issue with J. K. Gibson-Graham and Gerda Roelvink’s (2010) contribution to Antipode’s 40th anniversary issue, The Point Is To Change It. With Gibson-Graham, Roelvink - who’s a Community Economies Collective member like Cornwell - sketches out ‘an economic ethics for the Anthropocene’. They argue that “…we are being called to read the potentially positive futures barely visible in the present order of things, and to imagine how to strengthen and move them along” (p. 342). All manner of ‘community researchers’ and ‘economic activists’ are learning from each other, transforming what are sometimes glimmers or murmurs of difference, making them ever more legible as they’re amplified through integration. The economic ethics they adumbrate is sensitive to: how a commons is produced and sustained; whether and how products and surplus are to be consumed; what is necessary to personal, social, and ecological survival; and how surplus is appropriated from and distributed to humans and the more than human (p. 331) - questions numerous researchers/activists ‘doing’ community economies ask themselves every day, and ones that humanity as a whole, faced with daunting threats like global warming, badly needs to think through.
Articles Free Online
Transition urbanism and the contested politics of ethical place making
Kelvin Mason and Mark Whitehead (2012)
An economic ethics for the Anthropocene
J. K. Gibson-Graham and Gerda Roelvink (2010)
Andrew Leyshon (2005)
Scaling gender and diverse economies: Perspectives from Appalachia and South Africa
Ann M. Oberhauser (2005)
The myopia of ‘diverse economies’, or, A critique of the ‘informal economy’
Michael Samers (2005)
Rethinking overdetermination, structural power, and social change: A critique of Gibson-Graham
StephenResnick and Wolff Jim Glassman (2003)
Some critical questions for anti-essentialism
Richard Peet (1992)
A reply to Richard Peet
Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff (1992)
Anti-essentialism and overdetermination: A response to Dick Peet
Julie Graham (1992)
Theory and essentialism in Marxist geography
Julie Graham (1990)
Abstraction in Marx’s method
Ronald Horvath and Katherine Gibson (1984)