Compiled table of the diverse economy

I am a member of the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) that has emerged thanks to the groundbreaking work of J.K. Gibson-Graham. I remember reading their book The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy and feeling like I had arrived home.

Often when I present my research, I tend to show a table of the diverse economy. For some time I’ve been asked to post it so that people can access it easily online. Finally, here it is! This table is based on the work published in a book Take Back the Economy by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jennt Cameron and Stephen Healy, a journal article ‘A feminist project of belonging for the Anthropocene’ by J.K. Gibson-Graham and my own work published in a journal article ‘Framing social enterprise as post-growth organsing’.

Compiled table: The Diverse Economy

Rather than an ultimate truth, this table can be used as a tool to map acions and actors in the diverse economy. The colums indicate different elements of the diverse economy: labour, enterprise, transactions, property, and finance. The rows – titled capitalist, alternative capitalist and non-capitalist – group various activities that could represent them.

I have used this table in my article ‘Framing social enterprise as post-growth organsing’, in which I show that understanding social enterprise is far more complex than what is suggested by placing it in one box in a table. The social entrepreneurs I have studied engaged in various activities across the table. Moreover, critical social entrepreneurship studies have highlighted the embiguity of social enterprise as a concept and practice.

Despite its limitations, I find this table extremely useful. It is a compact tool for showing that all actions and actors navigate in the diverse economy. Indeed, the most important take-away from this table is that all economic action in contemporary societies is connected by activities across the table. There is no ‘pure’ economic activity in the diverse economy. Even the most non-capitalist project is linked to capitalism when the relations are unpacked. Vice versa, and most importantly for Community Econmies thinking and projects, capitalism would not exist without alternative and non-capitalist practices.

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