What is valuable in society and how shall we protect it? For conventional economists and politicians, the basic answer is simple: value is more or less the same as price. Value is the product of private property and “free markets” that distill countless individual preferences into a single, neutral, economic sum.
While this theory of value has always been flawed, both theoretically and empirically, alternative theories of value put forward by feminists, ecologists, Indigenous peoples, digital communities and commoners, have been largely underdeveloped or marginalized. The actual value generated by the “care economy,” social labor, eco-stewardship, digital communities and commoners is mostly ignored or considered a merely personal issue (“values”).
Because the definition of “value” is such a pivotal issue for governance, policy and law as they affect everyday life and the use of nature, this report explores neglected, alternative theories of value. It investigates how the importance of personal care, social labor and the intrinsic value of nature might be incorporated into our theories of value, with an eye toward strengthening social movements now challenging neoliberal capitalism, especially in political and policy arenas.
This report, written by David Bollier, draws upon three days of discussion by twenty thinkers and activists convened by the Commons Strategies Group in cooperation with the Heinrich Boell Foundation and David Graeber in September 2016.
Table of contents
THE VALUE QUESTION
A. Why “Value” Lies at the Heart of Politics
B. Should We Even Use the Word “Value”?
TOWARDS A RELATIONAL THEORY OF VALUE
KEY CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A NEW THEORY OF VALUE
A. Can Abstract Metrics Help Build a New Value Regime?
B. How Shall We Value “Nature”?
C. Should We De-Monetize Everyday Life?
COMMONS-BASED PEER PRODUCTION: A FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT IN UNDERSTANDING VALUE?
A. Practical Strategies for Building New Systems of Value
B. The Dangers of Co-optation and Wishful Thinking
C. But Peer Production Still Relies Upon (Unpaid) Care
Work and Nature!
NOTES TOWARD A COMMONS THEORY OF VALUE
Appendix A: Participants
Appendix B: A Commons Theory of Value
Appendix C: Readings for Value Deep Dive