J. K. Gibson-Graham

Autobiographical notes
Julie Graham
Department of Geosciences
University of Massachusetts
Amherst MA
Katherine Gibson
Department of Human Geography
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
The Australian National University-Canberra


A Brief History of Our Collaboration

J.K. Gibson-Graham is the pen name of Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham. The two halves of this authorial amalgamation first came together in 1977, as graduate students in geography at Clark University. By the second semester we were writing our papers collaboratively and we have been thinking and writing together ever since. In 1992, we adopted the joint name J.K. Gibson-Graham to honor and enliven our collaboration.

Over the years, we have often traversed the great distance that separates us, meeting at each other’s homes in the US and Australia or finding some intermediate location for brief work retreats. During sabbaticals we get together for longer visits, and find that we are able to complete major pieces of work when we can interact face-to-face for an extended period.

Our research involves rethinking economic concepts and reconstituting economic practices in the light of feminist and poststructuralist theory. Our recent publications address globalization, economic diversity, alternative development pathways, concepts of community and political practices of resubjectivation. We also have a longstanding interest in class analysis, particularly as it intersects gender, subjectivity, politics, and non-capitalist class relations.

In our first book, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (Blackwell 1996), we challenged the familiar vision of capitalism as the naturally dominant form of economy. The goal of the book was to open up a discursive space of economic difference to enable a different economic politics. More recently we have co-edited two books with Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff: Class and Its Others (Minnesota 2000) and Re/Presenting Class: Essays in Postmodern Marxism (Duke 2001). The essays in these companion volumes elaborate a vision of economic difference through the lens of class, and offer a new epistemological and emotional orientation to class politics.

Over the last three years we have each been engaged in major action research projects in our different national and regional contexts. These projects have actively cultivated alternative economic subjects and institutions, focusing specifically on fostering non-capitalist sites and practices. In three locations in the US, Australia, and the Asia Pacific region, we have collaborated with community-based researchers, local activists and other academics to inventory non-capitalist economic activities and generate alternative development projects and conversations. This "empirical research" can be seen as part of a larger language project: producing a discourse of economic difference as a contribution to a politics of economic innovation.

This year we have begun to explore the overlaps between our research projects, and also the different theoretical insights, empirical findings, and social effects they have engendered. We are currently working on a book tentatively entitled Reluctant Subjects: A Postcapitalist Politics of Class and Community to be completed by mid-2003. See outline below.


RELUCTANT Subjects: A Post-capitalist Politics of CLASS and Community

Concept

In the face of an almost universal sense of subjection to a global capitalist order, this book argues that post-capitalist subjects can be nurtured and created. Drawing on our recent action research experiences, we revisit the conversational spaces in which new understandings of "economy" emerged and chronicle the pleasurable, sometimes hilarious process of developing alternative economies and subjectivities.

Rationale

In The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (1996) we undermined the vision of capitalism as the only, or only viable, form of economy. In its place, we depicted a highly differentiated economic landscape, incorporating both capitalist and non-capitalist relations and processes. The non-capitalist relations we identified were described in very shadowy terms, as slave, feudal, individual or self-employed, collective or communal. In two co-edited volumes (Class and its Others and Re-presenting Class:Essays in Postmodern Marxism) we subsequently fleshed out what we meant by non-capitalism, rendering that negativity as a variety of positive forms in different social and economic contexts. With this differentiated economic landscape now firmly in sight, we began two action research projects in our separate geographical locations. Our goal was to build on our own theoretical understandings and the utopian aspirations of others to produce practical projects of non-capitalist community economic development.

As we embarked on these projects we were surprised to encounter a lack of desire, both in ourselves and in our community collaborators, for non-capitalist economic alternatives and subjectivities. So pervasive was a sense of subjection to capitalist globalization and the market that we were forced to confront the embodied power of capitalist discourse at every step as we attempted practically to displace it. This book explains how we came to understand the lack of desire for ‘alternatives,’ and documents what we did to try and create new subjects for post-capitalist presents and futures. Reluctant Subjects outlines an economic politics that, while based on rethinking the "economy" and the meaning of economic development, sees the process of resubjectivation as key to imagining and enacting non-capitalist futures. Ours is a non-oppositional form of politics that nevertheless attempts to transform economies and redress the negative effects of globalization.

Chapter Outline

Preface

Introduces the emotional origins and aspirations of the book, beginning with our discomfort with the truncated affective regimes that often sustain traditional working class politics, postmodern identity politics and new movements of resistance against anti-globalization. Traces the fits and starts and ups and downs that brought us to view subjection and becoming as crucial to a post-capitalist economic politics. Looks toward the possibility of a non-oppositional politics of post-capitalist construction, and to attendant emotions of hope and enjoyment.

Chapter 1. Subjects for Diverse Economies

Expands upon the story of our personal and political journey since the publication of The End of Capitalism. Lays out what TEoC achieved in terms of unhinging the economy from a capitalocentric discourse and describing a heterogeneous economic landscape. Outlines in more detail a language project that can enable us to envision and enact a plural economy. Describes our subsequent dilemma of how to get subjects to inhabit this diverse landscape. Concludes with a brief summary of the narrative and affective trajectory of the book.

Chapter 2. Subjection and Becoming

Interrogates how subjects can think about alternative economic futures when subjection to the capitalist Economy appears to be the most powerful and present determinant of their contemporary identity. Introduces the politics of becoming and glimpses elements of new regional economic subjectivities in the Latrobe Valley of Australia.

Chapter 3. A Post-capitalist Fantasy

Looks at The Full Monty as a film that takes us on a journey to a utopia of class becoming, where we witness not only the birth of communal subjects and a collective enterprise (in business for one night) but also the role of a larger community in bringing them into existence. Focuses on the relationship between post-capitalist subjects, non-capitalist enterprises, and their conditions of emergence, and explores what the film has to teach us about the political processof producing a community economy.

Chapter 4. Working Class vs Cooperativist Class Politics in Place

Outlines the traditional antagonisms between cooperativist and working class politics in terms of their implications for building diverse regional economies, with reference to the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain and the powerful miners’ union in Australia’s capitalist coal industry. Traces the different decisions that the Mondragon cooperators and the mining unionists have made about the production, appropriation and distribution of surplus, showing how these decisions are framed by distinctive notions of the subject and concepts of community.

Chapter 5. Resignifying Community

Draws on the work of Nancy, Agamben, Lingis, Young on communities of difference to ask "who is the subject of the community?" Can we leave behind the image of small-scale and ultimately ineffectual activism, or the militant and parochial localism that attaches to the word ‘community’? Explores how we might build communities of economic difference whose power and efficacy is not restricted to localities.

Chapter 6. Imagining and Enacting Non-capitalist Futures

Presents the unfinished story of a search for a new way of thinking socialism and a new way of performingcollectivity. Recounts the conversations of a research group in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts with themselves, economic development practitioners, community researchers, community members, service learning students and community-based and left-wingactivists about the community economy and its development. Documents the emergence of collective subjects and projects over the course of a three-year action research collaboration.

Chapter 7. Producing Powerful Subjects in Place (Resubjectivation 1)

Argues that we are all subjected by the discourse of (capitalist) globalization and the identities and possibilities it offers us and that the post-capitalist political project is one of resubjectivation, allowing local subjects to take on novel economic identities and to assume the powers these new identities bestow. Draws upon multiple visions of power, community and politics to carve out a space for local subjects who are not subordinate to, defined by, or captured within capitalist globalization.

Chapter 8. Producing Subjects of a Diverse Economy (Resubjectivation 2)

Explores the subject’s fixation of desire, the mobilizing force of dissatisfaction, and the engendering of new identities/identifications with the help of Lacanian psychoanalysis and narrative therapy. Inspired by Foucault on the ethics of self-care, and William Connolly on the micropolitics of self-transformation, traces the cultivation and becoming of alternative economic subjects–individuals with both the desire and the capacity to build a diverse economy. First-person narratives and dialogues drawn from our action research in Australia and the USA.

Chapter 9. Building the Community Economy

Presents stories of actual and proposed non-capitalist enterprises and community projects in the US,Australia, Asia and the Pacific incorporating voices of participants. Highlights the ethical, emotional, physiological, psychological and cultural ingredients of economic activism; addresses resistance, failure, and the fragile and fraught relationship between desire and satisfaction/pleasure.

Chapter 10. Toward a Feminist Politics of Place and Post-capitalism

Steps aside from familiar binaries of revolution/reform, theory/practice, global/local, activist/academic. Summarizes our views on treating the locality, the body and the academy as exemplary places; the feminist politics of gender rather than for women; the ethics of (theoretical) choice and contingency; cultivating a political stance that is necessarily exclusive, in Foucault’s sense, but not militantly exclusivist (for example, not separatist, localist, or anti-capitalist); and the virtues of patience and lightheartedness. Based on an interview with feminist political theorist and post-capitalist activist Jenny Cameron.