Welcome to the Generative Justice Wiki


In his late writings Marx contrasted the alienation of labor value in mass production with the gift economy of indigenous cultures. Rather than industrial extraction, indigenous societies circulated value in unalienated form through meaningful, collaborative exchange with both human and nonhuman partners. Marx failed to move beyond his top-down economic vision, but new opportunities have now arisen for the bottom-up generation and circulation of value in unalienated forms: peer-to-peer production such as open source software; community based agroecology; and "DIY citizenship" ranging from feminist makerspaces to queer biohacking are just some of the new possibilities. In addition to labor, we can apply the "unalienated value" concept to nonhuman (ecological) value, as well as the "expressive" value in free speech, sexuality, spirituality, and other generative performance. For all three categories (labor value, ecological value, and expressive value) we can define generative justice as follows:

The universal right to generate unalienated value and directly participate in its benefits; the rights of value generators to create their own conditions of production; and the rights of communities of value generation to nurture self-sustaining paths for its circulation.
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Generative justice in a traditional Iroquois economy: double lines represent unalienated value flow.
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Generative and exploitative cycles in the Arduino open source network: single lines indicate alienated value; double lines for unalienated value flow.
Our introduction to generative justice compares the traditional Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) economy with the production networks for Arduino, an open source microprocessor platform used by many social justice activists and environmentalists as well as by small scale entrepreneurs. While the Arduino system includes alienated value production (single lines), its prospects for a flourishing of unalienated value include both non-profit and for-profit forms.

In general, one can approach a generative justice analysis as follows:

1. Identify what might generate unalienated value. Traditionally we think of human labor as generating value, but in fields such as STS we have to account for nonhuman value generation. For most indigenous cultures, value is generated by a spiritual interdependence of nature and community; for software developers value emerges from their interactions with a digital ecosystem of people and technologies; for many cooks value is tied to gustatory sensuality, and so on. In many cases the challenge is facilitate recognition of the value that has already been created: for example the "cultural capital" of built or living environments, the social justice work from prior generations of a community, etc. In other cases the potential for new forms of unalienated value generation is the focus of research.

2. Identify the threats from extraction of value. Generative justice is a critique of any extraction of value, whether that is capitalist corporations, communist states, or internal, bottom-up domination (e.g. sexism in a makerspace). Value extraction for nature means soils are depleted, oceans are over-fished, and so on. Value extraction for workers, artists, athletes, scientists, parents, and so on all take different forms.

3. Identify ways in which extraction can be replaced by generative circulation. For organic gardening, "generative circulation" means that plant and food "waste" are composted back to the soil; so the flow of value is more local. For open source software, "generative circulation" means that source code is released to the public domain, so that the flow of value is more accessible. In all cases, the crucial feature is its circular flow, from the generators of value, back to the generators of value, by means of a "commons". Resistance to exploitation sometimes means re-establishing interrupted flows. It can also involve new innovation as long as the value is not losing its unalienated character or relinquishing control by those who generated the value in the first place.

More discussion can be found in our papers and presentations page.