Katherine Gibson, Jenny Cameron, and Stephen Healy talk to Society & Space co-editor Jane M. Jacobs about their forthcoming book, Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide For Transforming Our Communities (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Take Back the Economy looks at how the economy is the outcome of the decisions and efforts everyone makes every day. Full of exercises and inspiring examples from around the world, it shows how people can implement small-scale changes in their own lives to create ethical economies. It was written by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron, and Stephen Healy, all geographers and founding members of the Community Economies Collective.



Jane M. Jacobs: Thank you all for joining me and agreeing to this interview. Let me begin by saying how much I enjoyed reading the book. Congratulations!  I would like to begin by asking a bit about how you came to write a book such as this. It is a distinct genre of writing, something between an academic book and something more populist—almost a self-help book. Do let me ask how the book came about, what were you trying to achieve by writing the book?

Katherine Gibson: Well we wanted to write something populist, so we could get our ideas out to a wider audience. We thought in the beginning, when we started five years ago, that it was going to be a version of A Postcapitalist Politics. So in the first instance we wanted to write a book that anyone could pick up and read, whether it is an undergraduate or whether it is a community organizer. So we definitely had that audience in mind when we were writing it. In A Postcapitalist Politics we talked about a language politics, where the idea of a community economy could be a new kind of node, a mobilizing node, for people to reorganize our economy. But how to actually do that? We experimented with action research projects that were all very place based and relatively constrained and I guess our feeling was; how do we broaden this out? And if we want to do that we have to write something that is going to speak to a much wider audience. And I think, the others could mention other things, but the process of moving to that voice took a long time. And to do it in a way that we didn’t feel was too preachy, because I think the point about self-help is true. Even in A Postcapitalist Politics Julie and I mentioned how we are self-help junkies. There is no doubt about it! Or at least I think I was more when she was alive, actually (laughter). Maybe I should return to it as I am missing the benefits of it.  We all experienced the way in which a new reframing can totally shift your sense of self and possibility, and that is what we wanted to do in this book, for the economy. But I will end there and let the others reflect.

Jenny Cameron: When you said about the idea of reframing, Kath, it makes me think that, although we have not explicitly said this to each other, we had in mind books like Kretzmann and McKnight’s Building Community from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets. This is a book that speaks to a popular audience and does that reframing work from a deficit model to a strength-based model. Those kinds of books were probably there in the back of our minds as well.

JJ: I wanted to ask you what books you found inspirational, so that is useful to know.

JC: I don’t think it was consciously inspirational but all of us have used that work at various times. And have appreciated the way it can really produce a shift.  And so that was one of those things tucked away influencing us.

KG: Another one I can think of is George Lakoff’s, Don’t Think of an ElephantKnow Your Values and Frame the Debate. That was definitely about the power of reframing.  That had a real impact. There have been other popular books like Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities which really spoke to us and felt like it is really doing something that is inspiring people and Naomi Klein’s work. You know those kinds of people I think inspired us. I will leave space for Stephen to come in here….

Stephen Healy: Well, for me, we wanted to write a popular book from the beginning that is true, but in the course of trying to translate the insight from The End of Capitalism and A Postcapitalist Politics into a language that can be picked up by church groups or community organizers we had to do, actually, a lot of new theoretical work in order to make that happen. And a lot of that occurred in really thinking about how do we get people to look at their working lives with a sense of possibility rather than either just resenting the wage employment they are involved with or feeling like they don’t have enough of it. There are a lot of other questions that could be asked in relation to that one aspect of our economic lives.

All four of us have become increasingly concerned with the anthropocene as well over the past few years. So, to combine a taking back the economy with respect to sociality and the meaning, purpose and dignity of work, with also thinking about ecological issues, that was a set of connections that we developed in relation to each one of the chapters: How we work, how we exchange things; how we organize production; what we do with surplus and how we invest for the future.

But there is another shift there too, which is maybe particular to being a left academic: the move from a kind of position of critical mastery, this idea that we are constantly critiquing what is wrong with the economy or with capitalism or with neo-liberalism, to really thinking about the performative effects of speaking this new language. And for me, increasingly, the new language isn’t just about the words that I use but the way I measure and value the economy. There is a metrological device in the chapters that is part of a new politics of representation and really they are the basis for an open-ended conversation.

When I went through the work chapter with my students this fall, for instance, a lot of what they brought up was a lack of connection to community and occupational fulfillment. Some of that is part of the life stage, but some of it was about a kind of alienation that young people are dealing with. And so the book animated a conversation that I could tell they had not had before. So to me that is what we are popularizing, that different disposition towards knowledge, and to how we understand our relationship to the economy.

JJ: Thank you for that elaboration. What struck me is the fact that you are offering a new vocabulary; you may even use that term vocabulary.  That the book is trying to provide another way of seeing, experiencing and registering the economy. And the way you all talk about ‘metrics’ is right, you offer another way of auditing the world around you, and this is a very compelling part of the book.

One of the things I really liked about the book in relation to some aspects of contemporary debate, not within economic theory but perhaps more geographical theory, is how your emphasis on language seems counter to the current emphasis on the non-representational. This was a book that really reminds us just how powerful vocabulary and representational fields are in terms of reshaping what can happen and be done in the world.

KG:  That is exactly right. It is our shift away from total fixation with the representational, to the embodied and metrological and technological ways in which economies are experienced. But it is very much an intermixing of the two, because one cannot happen without the other. And reading it again now one of the things that really struck me was how we are using Latour’s argument and Callon’s argument about learning to be affected. And while we have used that in other writing, here in this book we really are trying to operationalize that idea. And the idea of showing people the diversity of relationships they have and economic practices that they are already involved in, that is really just the strategy coming out of our diverse economy kind of interest. But once you see that diversity, once you audit it, once you actually own it, it does suddenly transform things about what you can do. And I guess adding in with respect to that affective realm our relationship with the non-human as much as with the human, that has been a new shift, one of the theoretical developments that Stephen mentioned.  But I did think that, well that very simple kind of phrase [learning to be affected], we have really taken it on. So it is another thing that has influenced us, not so much a popular book but a way of stating a theoretical concept that we have tried to bring alive in the book.

JC: What that makes me think of, Jane, is that although as you say [the book] has that self-help feel to it, in fact one the things we hoped the book might do is to get people in conversation with each other. So the self-help is not individualizing, but is something people can do collectively. So that people are both looking at their own practices, but in conversation with other people who are also thinking about that. But also I would hope through the examples we have in the book, that people can see themselves as globally connected with others who are thinking along the same lines and wanting to make the same sort of shifts and transitions.

JJ: I think it is very interesting the discomfort I felt by saying it read a little bit like a self-help book, and the discomfort of your response tells me that you feel this as well. The other term I thought of and wrote down when reading the book, which again I though was an insufficient term, was that of the ‘lifestyle’ book. Not least because the word lifestyle is so hackneyed now, and lost to us really as a term for radical change. But in many respects this book is about lifestyle, or re-styling life and work. And it did occur to me that you may be pushing towards or even have invented a new genre of book within this populist vein of publishing: neither self-help, nor lifestyle, and so much more than both of these, but also utterly an academic book at the core.

I was interested in thinking about the pragmatism of the book versus the kind of idealism that I know that the project of thinking about a non-capitalist economy, which was the term that you and Julie began with, Kathie. Which was always so resisted by everybody who heard you say it. And here you have now moved towards something called ‘community economy’ and this kind of pragmatic field of rethinking and action. I wonder if you could address that journey? What has gone on in your thinking in the course of that journey? How something that began a lot more idealistically perhaps has become something far more pragmatic.

KG: Mmm, I don’t know that I identify with the idealism that you see in The End of Capitalism and A Postcapitalist Politics.  I guess, yes, the interest in another kind of world, the postcapitalist world, has been there right from the beginning. So I guess the question for us has always been: what does that really mean? And taking up the idea that Jean Luc Nancy had of communism as [ “the index of a task of thought still and increasingly open” 2002:8], as a yet unexperienced thing, an unfinished project to some extent. So, I see the framing and what we are doing and thinking around with respect to community economy as a kind of reformulation of communism. It is a way of getting to the essence of what that ideal was, that sense of the interdependence that we necessarily have, right from the beginning with each other and our earth.  Yes, there is definitely a pragmatism in the sense that we have accepted the term ‘community’ just like Nancy has done, and we have tried to reframe what that is too against a lot of opposition from the Left and against a lot of misunderstandings and views of community and the happy clappy kind of feeling of it.  And I think in the book we have really tried to show where these ambiguous moments come up, where these conflictual moments, where what might seem ethically right in one moment is going to be undermined in the very next. That there is no right way here, but it has to always be negotiated and renegotiated. So the pragmatism I think is in that sense of the fragility always of any sense of interdependence, and the facing up to it, and the relief of facing up to it.

You know the problem with the self-help imagery and the lifestyle imagery is the very individualism of it. And I think what we are trying to do in this book is to say ‘yes, we have to start where we are, with ourselves and our relationships’, but the only way we will ever be able to act is in concert and in relation with others. So, the pragmatism is really from that point of view.

And clearly a lot of people don’t like the way in which we have stepped away from the oppositional project of undermining capitalism. And I think, for example, probably a lot of the Occupy movement would not necessarily like what we are doing even though we get a huge amount of inspiration from them. And that is a thing that continually comes up: [we get asked] why have you stepped away from the resistant positional project to this making project? But that is consistent with what we have been trying to argue for a long time in our work.  It is just in this book we have more of a “how to” aspect, which opens us up of course to a lot of criticism and scorn to some extent.

And just before I finish and the others take up, on this question of lifestyle.  I have been thinking about all the different reality TV programmes that are around at the moment, not just pure lifestyle, not, for example “The Biggest Loser” or the “Big Brother” kind of thing, but these programmes that are saying how do we change the way we [live] and feel happy.  There was a great series [set in Marrickville] in Australia around an experiment with people trying to improve their happiness along all the dimensions of well being, not unlike what we are interested in. There has been a [British] reality TV series about, for example, setting up a people’s supermarket where people own the business and source local food.  There have been these programmes of people stepping, for example,  out of the shoes of a bus driver in London and into those of  a jeepney driver in Manila and experiencing what life is like.  So it seems like in popular culture there is a lot of interest in what are the lives we are leading and how can we make them different. And I guess our book is trying to say that anyone can do this, we do not just have to be in a reality TV show to do it. But how can we do this with others in the various groups and communities that we are already existing in.  So that is another aspect of that pragmatism.

JJ: Jenny, Stephen?

josefs-clockJC: Just picking up that point about the pragmatism, and the idea of the community economy.  What we are trying to do in the book is open up the economy as something that gets made through the ethical decisions we are taking. And they involve a degree, even though they are ethical, of pragmatism about what is right for this moment and that might be different in another moment, it might be different in another place. But trying to unpack all the sorts of decisions that can go into thinking about what you are doing in one particular moment. And one of the things that I suspect some people won’t like about the book, and this is in relation to other books [on offer] in this area, is that there are a lot of books around that spell out really big picture recipes: “government must do this”, “government should put this process into place”, in order to transform the economy. So, people like us, identifying lots of problems, but wondering how do you go about shifting it. And one way that most books seem to work is by coming out with these really big picture recipes and models that need to be put into place. So [our] pragmatism is much more about our thinking about decisions that we can take and everyday practices we can do.  With the self-help thing we are not trying to give people the Ten Commandments. But what we are trying to do is to give people a set of tools that they can open up their decision making with, when they are thinking about how they want to live with others and live with the planet.

JJ: Stephen, do you want to add in anything at this point?

SH: A lot of what has been said really resonates with me. For me, the way that I make sense of how this fits into the self-help, life-style genre is that usually those books are written, framed, in relation to individual choice, a bourgeois crafting of the self. And that in every instance in our book we are really asking people to take up the question of what their life should be in its economic and ecological dimensions, on a collective basis. So one thought that we have been playing with, all three of us, is this recent essay that was written by Michael Hardt, where he distinguishes biopower from the biopolitical in the work of the late Foucault.  And biopower is a term that he uses to describe a kind of state administration of life. In opposition to that he identifies a thread within Foucault’s work, the biopolitical, that is a practice of politics that takes life itself as an object, and he suggests that this can be done collectively.  And I think in each instance we are really asking people to think about the sociality of their economic lives and the impact that they have on earth others.  So for me it is a positive biopolitical project. And I think that that is, somehow, pragmatic.  But I think that it is very unsettling for all those people on the Left that always think of, or conflate, the biopolitical with biopower and imagine that the state has to be resisted because it is always captured by neoliberalism. In contrast, we are saying, “ no, no, no, we can actually have conversations,we can have ways of measuring and valuing our economic lives that could have policy implications”.

JJ: And I think Stephen, my immediate experience of reading the book, but also in previous discussions about this, is that when you can look around your household and not imagine that every aspect of it is somehow scripted by neoliberalism (laughter) then it really is a very important reconfiguration of the politics of subjection.

SH: Yes that is right.

JJ: So, for me, this is a very powerful part of what is done within the book.  And what I think is most immensely powerful about it, is that it is not expressed in those terms.  I do not think the word neoliberalism appears in the book at all if I am right.

JC: We are talking about the index at the moment. It won’t be indexed!

KG: I think that what this points to is something we realized at the end of writing it, which was that there is a huge amount of theoretical work and theoretical argumentation that underlies what we are doing and saying, which we could now excavate and write as more academic articles. For example, that conversation with Michael Hardt, for instance, that we could do.

In a funny way the theories we have been working on have been so embodied in how we have written the book and we explicitly tried to use as little jargon – and I am a great one for jargon when it is related to its context – but this is a context in which that kind of language just would not work.

SH: We also have discussed at various times how there could be a set of methodological approaches here in relation to many of the metrics we have developed.  The book draws up a research agenda both for ourselves and for other members of our collective.

But to say one more thing about the pragmatism. You know there are definitely examples in the book that leap out as uncomfortable, for me anyway. For example, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, predicated on oil extraction. How do you square that with the politics of climate change? And they have come up with a solution, but it would not work for everyone. So for me that is where that kind of conversational practice could really exist in connection with the book. Because the ethics do not line up with a normative prescription. I also feel like this book sets out a research agenda for anyone who reads it in, say, in the context of a community group that wants to build a more sustainable or just economy.

JJ: I would like to focus on something that I found interesting and possibly a little surprising for those not in touch with your more recent thinking about the anthropocene, and this was the ecological thread that is in this work.  It seems to be more explicitly expressed here than in much of the earlier work. It maybe goes back to something Stephen was saying earlier about how the book forced you to rethink some things theoretically. It occurred to me that if this book had been written by you, this collective, maybe 15 years ago (if it were possible to do this 15 years ago) then it would have been all about equity and justice. But the important thing your project has done is reframe thinking about the economy away from such goals as the be all and end all of critical scholarship.   And now we have your already radical rethinking of economy threaded through with an ecological imagination and aspiration.  And I just wondered if you could talk to that embracing of the ecological agenda?

KG: If we had sat down and written and finished this book 5 years ago it would not have been there as much either.  When we started the book with Julie I don’t think that the concerns that are now in the book around the ecological and environmental were as upper most and as developed. I mean from my personal point of view its, well, there are two things. Obviously, there is the whole political issue of ‘the world’; it is more of a real political issue, center stage. And I think for me, personally, there was the relationship with Val Plumwood and Deborah Bird Rose and Freya Matthews. Those relationships have influenced me, and Julie, by virtue of her relation with me, ended up having relationships with at least two of those people as well in the workshop that we organized on An Ethics for Living in the Anthropocene in the beginning of 2010 [not long before she died]. So the conversation that I had been having over the years around what Plumwood and Deb Bird Rose were thinking about, which had never really come to any real engagement, but there was a sense in which our projects were so similar in so many ways, and yet they were focusing on ecological relationships and other more-than-human connections, although not using those terminologies, and we were focusing on this community economy and rethinking economy, but the projects were so ready to speak to each other. And when Val died I realized that we had really lost this opportunity to go into that space, and I felt that I had to do it. And out of that came the work that Julie and I did with Gerda Roelvink on questions of the anthropocene.  So I guess for me, and given that people in the Community Economies Collective were also questioning the whole idea of the human centered-ness of our community economy, we had to move away from that.  And that’s a big issue for people coming out of a Marxian tradition and economic practice and theory: how do you move away from a human centered subject? So theoretically this has been a major source of thinking and creativity within the Community Economies Collective, which we wanted to start to address in this book as well.  So that is just one aspect, which is a kind of genealogical one.  But increasingly it has become the creative edge of the work too.

SH: I think that is right but, Kath maybe you could help me out here. Do you remember that talk? It might have been the Progress in Human Geography lecture that you gave at the AAG where you compared diverse economies language with the role of diversity in ecological sciences.

KG: I do not know where that was, off hand, it was somewhere!

SH: I think that was 2008.

KG: Yes that thinking then came through the work of Jane Jacobs, the older

JC: the other!

KG: That’s true Stephen; it was through our engagement with Jane Jacobs through The Nature of Economy, that book she wrote. And it is true Stephen, that came way back because Julie and I read that in one of our retreats over summer.  I can still see us on the verandah of a house on the south coast [of Australia], and we got so much out of that thinking. So the ecological theme has been kind of dormant in the work.

SH: Also your engagement with Stephen Gudeman and evolutionary theory, so I feel like that thread has been there nascent in the work for quite some time. And I know it was an animating concern for Julie, it was deep, you know. It was one of those things, she would always think about possibilities with sociality and economics, but she would literally get verklempt in relation to ecological situations to do with things like species loss. It was a deep concern for her, for a long time.

JJ: I know that some of that more ecological work has been taken up by others within the wider Community Economies Collective. And it might be useful, for those new to your work, to explore how the wider group has functioned with respect to this writing project.

JC: Well an immediate thing is thinking about how we work when we are so geographically dispersed.  What we do have is nodes. So there is the Sydney node that meets once a month and at various times. So when Stephen visits, he is part of that node. And we read drafts of each other’s work. So at various meetings the collective has read parts of the book and commented.  And the AAG conferences as well play a really important where people get to hear about the work and interact with it.

KG: And I think the interests of the people within the group, and here I think of Ethan Miller, Ann Hill and Gerda Roelvink and others who are trying to really work on this economy/ecology relationship. This has encouraged us to keep going. Especially Ethan’s comments.  Ethan Miller, who is based in Maine but came to UWS (University of Western Sydney) to do a PhD, had started working with our work at the end of his undergraduate career. I think he went on a trip all around New England with The End of Capitalism in his backpack, visiting experiments in economic and community economies.  And then finally stepped out of his very activist role and came and did a Masters with Julie, although she died before the end of it. Ethan read the manuscript of A Postcapitalist Politics for us in 2005 and gave us 12 single-spaced pages of comments, which helped us totally reframe the book in terms of the politics of language, the politics of the subject and the politics of collective action.  And there he was again reading this manuscript and giving us again something like 12 pages of comments that really helped us focus and reshape the book.  We also had some wonderful comments too from other readers and reviewers, but alongside of those, Ethan’s, because he was so engaged with the work, were some of the most searching and really have helped us.

SH: He really helped the order of the book coalesce. And also in terms of his own biography, really, taking classes with Julie and the late Lyn Margulis. There is a lot of potential there in terms of going much further with this line of thinking in our group.

JJ: Can I talk a little about the authorship process? Clearly all of you are committed co-authors in various ways, and Kathie, you and Julie of course produced something unique with your authorial name [of J-K Gibson-Graham]. So I think there may be a curiosity about how you work as co-authors on this project, but also of course how the authorial team has worked without Julie….or with Julie!

JC: I have such a strong memory, and I think it must be in 2008, there was a period when we were trying to write the book proposal (and that almost feels like it took as long as writing the book!).  We tried to do an elaborate proposal. We had this wild idea that if we did an elaborated book proposal in which each chapter had a couple of pages then we would just be able to sit down and write the book! {laughter} Do you remember that?  We thought that if we gave a sufficient guide for each chapter then we could just write it. So that took us ages to do.

In 2008 we were all together in the summer at Julie’s house, and Julie was upstairs working in her study, Kath was at the dining room table and I was in the lounge room and Stephen was in his room and we were all working on various bits of what was, I think, Chapter 5, the business/surplus chapter, and we worked on the Introduction. And I think that is when the four of us were intensively in the same space working on the book. And then I don’t think we have had the same intensity again until Christmas 2011, when Stephen you were out in Australia working in Kathie’s house. And I mean in a way doing a similar sort of process.

Each of us has played different roles with different chapters. In some chapters some of us were the first drafters, in other chapters we came in later.  But we have all written each chapter to some extent, and each contributed in a different way to the various chapters. So when you are reading it is hard to pinpoint different author styles as things have been written and re-written so many times that it is a very collective project and product.

KG: The magnitude of the book, especially in terms of the examples we draw upon, could never have been done by any one of us alone.  Let alone the thinking. There have been slight divisions of labor as well as the interpenetration of work. Some of that work on getting those examples, mastering them and deciding what was to go where, has been such a collective effort.  And I do not think we could have done it as a smaller group.

I think, working without Julie has been kind of, well, it’s been hard, really hard I think.  On the other hand, I feel like the three of us have been able to work extremely well too, with our different skills. And I feel like the voice of Julie is there all the time.  I mean, what she would have said all of us can voice at various moments, what she would have thought.  And I guess my own personal feeling is, the place I have missed her most, is in her wonderfully graceful and elegant writing. The way she could take something and just add a certain sheen to it that would really make it sing. And I think we have all tried to emulate that, but I still feel that, I mean, her incredible clarity.  I think we have managed to get the clarity she would have got, but she was always such a clarifier.  I think that is something that we have all learnt with her and from her. That way to get just the right word every now and again. Which probably comes out of her training as a literary person.  I still feel that I miss that.

JJ: I think that the clarity of the book is wonderful, you should have no apprehension about that.  It is beautifully pitched and clear as a bell.

KG: Jenny is also a great clarifier as she is such a wonderful teacher, so Stephen and I also learn from her.

JJ: I am interested in the fact that this is a book that wants to do something that, to use the terms of the British Higher Education sector, might be called “impact”. Some of the readers of this blog are well and truly inside of that impact story and will, as they read this piece, be actively preparing their “returns” as they are called, auditing their outputs and impacts, through the REF2014 research evaluation exercise. I am wondering what this kind of project has to say to that model of auditing impact.  I wonder if you have thought about the book in those terms. You clearly want it to do something – to change the way people look at the world and conduct their lives – and the British government might like to call that impact. But I wonder where you are as a collective in relation to ideas of impact, as opposed to your model of breaking down the barrier between the ivory tower of the university and the community.  You have done this in so many ways, through the action research and now this book. What does your mode of working have to say to something called as ‘impact’?

JC: We are going through a similar exercise here! I feel a certain degree of frustration about that because here the way in which impact is valued is in terms of very tangible ways: as if you do research x, and it produces outcome y.  So you do a piece of research on policy and you produce a policy outcome. So it seems like what is valued in the impact metrics is a causal model, a very one-to-one causal model, of impact.  Whereas, in my mind, a book like this, and if we adhere to the notion of overdetermination, is one of a multitude of things that might produce an outcome or a shift.  How you document that in the way that impact measures want is a source of frustration.

SH: I would point out that we have invited our readership to share with us whatever projects they undertake after they read the book. So that is in lots of the physical sciences now, such collaborative work and thinking is standard practice in industry and science. Is it possible to do something similar in the realm of social research: to be more self-conscious about sharing. Likewise the whole solidarity economy movement in Brazil, Italy, Spain, France and elsewhere really is about using metrology and mapping in order to build new economic relationships based on a different ethic. I think the normative politics are more explicit there than they are in our work but, as Jenny was saying, if you have this different ontological commitment to overdeterminism or to performative research, then we have a different understanding of what the impacts will be. But I think that maybe we could quantify it.

KG: And clearly we are interested in moving ahead to establish some kind of interactive presence on the web and ways in which these tools of measuring and auditing showcased in the book could be used and become part of a database or an e-research project. In that sense there would be a way of quantifying the impact, but it is in a very different model of impact than our excellence and research assessment exercises imagines and seeks.  And this was one of the slight worries I had when we were thinking about the book, hoping it would not be seen as a text book for instance, in which case it would have no or very little value in those kind of exercises.  And it will be interesting to see how it gets evaluated academically in that sense.  But, hey, we cannot live our lives dominated by those kinds of visions. It is just too soul destroying.  As academics and as colleagues and as activists, we have to keep our eye on what we want to be doing.  And this was something we all wanted to do.  So I feel that one has to live in a parallel universe to these disciplinary framing and evaluation systems.  I suppose I can say that with the security of being at the end of my career. But I am also very aware of what this means for people earlier in their career, and hence why it is an imperative for us now to get out some more academic style papers based on this book.  If we had started with that agenda we would never have written this book.

JJ: That is a very valuable set of reflections. I have just one last question, although you may have other things to add.  Of course there are many more things to be said about the book for it is so compelling.  But I wonder, as a final reflection you might talk about what your hope is for the book.

JC: We want it to go viral! [laughter]  It is easy! The University of Minnesota Press are going to try and get the cost of it down to about $20, so we really are hoping it will get a wide readership.

KG: There will be work to be done to get that to happen of course, getting it onto YouTube and so on. But we would love it to get picked up.

SH: I would love to see all of the metrological devices we developed turned into smartphone apps.

KG: Ultimately we would love to see various organic emergences of different, new, unthought-of  communities develop, be that between Filipino farmers and Australian coal miners, or academics and people elsewhere in their own community actually being able to talk about this stuff. It feels like so much of what is going on in the world at this moment in terms of economic issues and environment issues is kind of unsaid. The real things that are affecting us are not being talked about in a way that people can actually converse. I guess I am hoping that this could be a trigger for those kinds of conversations. Maybe that is where the idealism comes in. And what that means for us as people who have written the book I am not sure. I am hoping that it can get owned by people and just get taken on and we lose our presence in it.

JJ: Many thanks for your time in giving this interview for Society & Space and we wish you all the best for the book.

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Jane M. Jacobs is Director of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College. Her most recent book is Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture (MIT Press, 2014), coauthored with Stephen Cairns.