A social economy approach therefore asks why people are engaged in specific enterprises. Are they simply out to make the most money they can? Many people do. Or do they see themselves as providing an essential service their community is missing? Are they providing employment for otherwise disadvantaged groups? Do they simply take pride in producing artistic or high-quality goods and the only money they need is enough to cover their living expenses?
In what now feels like a lifetime ago, I was having one last catch up with a mate from my PhD cohort before we both set off for the field. We’d grabbed burgers at a burger bar in Canberra and were nursing a couple of pints. As I returned to the table after a brief visit to the bathroom, my mate said to me, “Ah, Alex, I’m glad you’re back. I was just about to say to Sarah (my partner) that we have so much in common – neither of us originally studied anthropology, both of us are from a development studies background, and we’re both too fat to be anthropologists.”
A while ago I read something on Twitter that got me thinking. The tweet read something along the lines of: “What kind of sci-fi dystopia are we living in where robots taking all our jobs is considered a problem?” A slightly more positive spin on this is: “The problem isn't that robots are taking over our jobs, the problem is that we've created a world where that's somehow a bad thing.” These feel like somewhat glib responses to increasingly complex questions about inequality and automation; however, what they actually ask are fundamental questions about what we value and how we structure society. In essence: “Why should we work?”
If you’re an Australian, the title of this blog post likely felt kind of strange to you. Perhaps it just felt a bit wrong or maybe it made you feel a bit uncomfortable in the tummy. Maybe it even made you angry and you’ve already skipped reading this and jumped to the comments section to complain about ‘Americanization’.