Solnit on mutual aid economies

Almost anyone would say our society is capitalistic, based on competition and selfishness. But huge areas of our lives are already based on gift economies, barter, mutual aid, and giving without hope of return. Think of the relations between friends, between family members, the activities of volunteers or those who have chosen their vocation on principle rather than for profit.

Think of the acts of those who do more and do it more passionately than they are paid to do, of the armies of the unpaid at work counterbalancing and cleaning up after the invisible hand of the market and even loosening its grip on our collective throat. Such acts represent the relations of the great majority of us some of the time and a minority of us all the time. They are, as the two feminist economists who published together as J. K. Gibson-Graham noted, the nine-tenths of the economic iceberg that is below the waterline. Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists, who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it and at least partially compensate for its destructiveness.

Hope lies in the future, but my work on disaster and society convinced me that much that is remarkable is with us already, undescribed.

Rebecca Solnit

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