This chapter summarizes the key contributions of the book. It highlights the way the text operates as three interlocking frameworks: an intellectual framework focused on an understanding of the relationship between collectively produced systems and human agency; a political framework which insists on the need for these systems to become the centre of politics; and an analytical framework which understands systems in context, with a focus on exploitation. It further demonstrates the utility of these frameworks by briefly analysing two current cases: the push for universal basic income globally, and the focus on the Green New Deal in the United States. The chapter also lists ten areas where future work is needed.
This chapter explains the concept of reliance and reliance systems – the way in which human agency stems from collectively produced systems. It then links this understanding of reliance and agency to capabilities theory, and explains the contribution that reliance systems make to rendering capabilities theory more aware of the materiality of capabilities. The chapter then delves into the nature of reliance systems, focusing on separating the material and functional components of reliance systems. We explain the need to modify social contract theory in order to pursue a better politics of reliance systems, as opposed to other possible political avenues such as rights and deliberative democracy. The chapter ends by suggesting six principles for examining the morality of any given spatial contract.
The introduction lays out the basic intellectual framework of the book. It argues that human agency is derived from collectively produced reliance systems such as energy, transportation and water. These systems are governed by complex formal and informal agreements called spatial contracts, which differ depending on the system, geography and moment in history. These spatial contracts need to become the focal point of twenty-first-century politics.
This chapter furthers the development of the analytical framework by focusing on the relationship between reliance systems and exploitation. It reworks Iris Marion Young’s five faces of oppression for use with reliance systems and the spatial contract. These five faces are exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence.
This chapter continues the work of building the analytical framework. Rather than pulling apart systems to appreciate their differences, as in Chapter 2, this chapter explains how systems must be seen together as human settlements. This settlements perspective illuminates two important sets of divisions that may hinder the development of healthier spatial contracts – the divide between urban and rural, and that between formal and informal.
This chapter focuses on building an analytical framework for understanding reliance systems and spatial contracts. It is based on the argument that we must begin with the system, and understand the politics from the system up, rather than from the politics down. The framework draws on systems thinking to establish how we can differentiate between different systems. It then uses this systems perspective to repurpose ideas from economics which are useful if focused on systems instead of commodities.
This book examines how material systems such as transportation, energy and housing form the basis of human freedom. It begins by explaining this linkage by defining reliance systems, the basic way in which we become free to act not only as a result of our bodily capabilities or the absence of barriers but because of collectively produced systems. As virtually all of us rely on such systems – water, food, energy, healthcare, etc. – for freedom, the book argues that they must form the centre of a twenty-first-century politics. Rather than envisioning a healthier politics of reliance systems exclusively through rights or justice or deliberative democracy, we argue that they must become the centre of a new social contract. More specifically, we discuss the politics of reliance systems as a set of spatial contracts. Spatial contracts are the full set of politics governing any given system, and as such they are historically, geographically and system specific. In order to fully understand spatial contracts, we develop an analytical framework focused on three areas. Seeing like a system shows how systems thinking can enable us to avoid ideological approaches to understanding given spatial contracts, repurposing key ideas from mainstream and heterodox economics. Seeing like a settlement shows how systems come together in space to form human settlements, and exposes key political divides between urban and rural, and formal and informal. Adapting Iris Marion Young’s five faces of oppression enables an understanding of the specific ways in which reliance systems can be exploitative.