We all know it is very important, but often feel intimidated by the technical terms and math that people use when discussing the economy.
We all know it is very important, but often feel intimidated by the technical terms and math that people use when discussing the economy. When the news talks about the economy, they usually report on things like the stock market and the latest adventures of billionaires. They talk about unemployment and inflation, and mention lots of numbers. They tend to focus on what can be quantified and be given a dollar value, but our economy is so much more than that.
The Oxford dictionary defines the word “economy” as “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.”
We prefer a different definition. For us, the “economy” means “the processes that provide for human life.” The economy, then, is about what we humans and non-humans need and the processes we use to meet those needs.
We can divide economic activity into four categories to help us understand the economy better.: production, distribution, consumption, and reproduction.
Can you explain more about what production, distribution, consumption, and reproduction entail?
So think about food, for example. Farmers produce food, they plant seeds, pull out weeds, water their crops and then harvest them. That food is then transported to supermarkets for sale. Consumption is when you cook food and eat it. Reproductive work is the work that is needed to take care of ourselves and others and to keep our society going. It is the work of cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, elderly and the sick.The work that is needed to nurture and care for ourselves can be purchased from others in the market, for example I have two small children and we hire babysitters all the time. But most of it takes place outside of the market without any pay, such as within the family. Most of the time my partner and I take care of our children. Throughout history, reproductive labor has disproportionately been performed by non-men and by racialized and marginalized groups in society. Women of color, and especially Black women and immigrant women, have been dispropoprtionately pushed into this kind of work over the entire course of US history, starting with chattel slavery.
So really the economy is about us! How we take care of our needs, the earth, each other and how we meet our needs through the processes of production, reproduction, distribution and consumption.