Angela Harris –
In a previous post, I gave two cheers for “reproduction” as a useful verb to think with when trying to understand the relationship between “political economy” and the social-ecological world within LPE. I held back that third cheer out of a rhetorical concern. As I put it then, “‘Social reproduction’” might imply that there is a pre-existing social world, that it ‘reproduces’ in some unspecified way, and that the whole process is ancillary to the topic of Political Economy.” In this post, I return to that unease in a more theoretical key. One weakness of “reproduction” as a word to describe social and ecological dynamics is, I think, in the way it suggests long-term sameness, whether through duplication or equilibrium. A second weakness of “reproduction” is its failure to mark the processes of destruction and waste those dynamics involve. To compensate for these weaknesses, I want to offer a supplemental keyword for analyzing the social and ecological world: “extraction.” Like reproduction, “extraction” has a Marxist pedigree, but it also carries at least four connotations that “reproduction” doesn’t. The first is non-renewability; the second is corruption; the third is waste; and the fourth is violence. The examples that follow illustrate these connotations at the level of national economies; there are many other levels of scale on which the implications of “extraction” might usefully be explored.