Book Review Forum — Andrew Zitcer’s “Practicing Cooperation: Mutual Aid Beyond Capitalism”

Introduction — Kevin St. Martin (Rutgers University) and J.K. Gibson-Graham (Western Sydney University)

This book review symposium emerged from an “author meets critics” session at the New York and online AAG conference in 2022 where four panelists generously engaged with Andrew Zitcer’s book, Practicing Cooperation: Mutual Aid Beyond Capitalism, and subsequently agreed to the publication of their comments. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, Practicing Cooperation is one of eight books in the “Diverse Economies and Livable Worlds” book series, edited by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Stephen Healy, Maliha Safri, and Kevin St. Martin. The series aims to publish works documenting post-capitalist possibilities and projects that perform potential, actually existing, and/or transformative economies. The series builds upon the ethico-political project initiated by J.K. Gibson-Graham and further developed by the Community Economies Institute who rethink “the” economy as a diversity of economic practices. While highly uneven and rife with exploitative modes, the “diverse economy” also affords the possibility of locating, explicating, and amplifying those economic practices constitutive of community and environmental wellbeing.

The reviews gathered here make clear the strengths of Practicing Cooperation as a vital contribution to the growing diverse economies field: its insistence that cooperation is best understood as an ongoing practice rather than an institutional form; that, like other socially transformative practices, cooperation is difficult and fraught with challenges, inevitable failures, as well as moments of learning, growth, and transformation that is both embodied and socially relevant; and that cooperation, as a practice and a relationality, is accessible and actionable. The reviews also raise the oft-cited concerns and criticisms that are familiar to feminists, queer theorists, and others who are invested in a politics of possibility and proximate change, criticisms that suggest transformation, in this case economic transformation, is only ever possible in particular contexts, at particular scales, and in some distant future rather than “here and now”. With a focus on cooperation as an embodied practice and complex relationality, Andrew Zitcer’s Practicing Cooperation clarifies the challenges of duration, multiplication, and social justice that we face, without drawing on “strong theories” that foreground inevitabilities, necessary barriers and exclusions, or essential economic trajectories. As a result, Practicing Cooperation shifts our focus to what we might learn from existing and ongoing modes of cooperation, from failures and successes, and from those who are actively rethinking cooperative practices as potential sites of social justice.

Book Review Forum — Andrew Zitcer’s Practicing Cooperation: Mutual Aid Beyond Capitalism

Introduction — Kevin St. Martin (Rutgers University) and J.K. Gibson-Graham (Western Sydney University)

Review 1 — Craig Borowiak (Haverford College)

Review 2 — James DeFilippis (Rutgers University)

Review 3 — Lauren Hudson (City University of New York)

Review 4 — Heather McLean (Athabasca University)

Author’s Response — Andrew Zitcer (Drexel University)