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Review of Livelihood, Market, and State: What Does a Political Economy Predicated on the ‘Individual-In-Group-In-Place’ Actually Look Like?" by Stephen Quilley and Katharine Zywert

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The sustainable livelihoods approach expands understanding of the livelihoods of the poor. It formally arranges the factors that limit or increase livelihood opportunities, and shows how they relate

It can assist in planning development activities and assess the input that existing activities have made to sustaining livelihoods. It makes the correlation between poor and the general enabling environment that influences the outcomes of livelihood strategies. It focuses attention to bear on the intrinsic potential of poor in terms of their skills, social association, and access to physical and monetary resources, and ability to influence core institutions.

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Ecological economics has relied too much on priorities and institutional conventions defined by the high energy/throughput era of social democracy. Future research should focus on the political economy of a survival unit (Elias) based upon Livelihood as counterbalance to both State and Market. Drawing on the work of Polanyi, Elias, Gellner and Ong, capitalist modernization is analyzed in terms of the emergence of a society of individuals and the replacement of the survival units of place-bound bound family and community by one in which the State acts in concert with the Market. The operation of welfare systems is shown to depend upon ongoing economic growth and a continual flow of fiscal resources. The politics of this survival unit depends upon high levels of mutual identification and an affective-cognitive ‘we imaginary’

Increasing diversity, a political rejection of nationalism as a basis for politics and limits to economic growth, are likely to present an existential threat to the State–Market survival unit. A reversal of globalization, reconsolidation of the nation-state, a reduction in the scope of national and global markets and the expansion of informal processes of manufacture and distribution may provide a plausible basis for a hybrid Livelihood–Market–State survival unit. The politics of such a reorientation would straddle the existing left–right divide in disruptive and unsettling ways.

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By and large, in what way is he, or are they, more progressive than a pro-life conservative Catholic distributist who would at the same time challenge the market economy and wants a more embedded but culturally conservative form of political economy involving substantial aspects of livelihood, gift economy, reciprocity – and a definition of the good life that centres family over wealth/acquisition and consumption? Both sides are in denial. Self-preservation might lead me to side with the distributist…without any illusions

But there may be really interesting possibilities that we can’t see for want of a conversation across the tracks.

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