HCCW: Santa Cruz Commons

Nancy Chen
UC Santa Cruz

Increasingly, members of the working and middle classes feel excluded as economic agents in a society shaped by globalization and technological innovation, by massive unemployment and a devastated housing market, by deepening social inequities and the truncation of public resources. In social, political and psychological terms, those who are unemployed experience themselves as marginal to an economy that rests on waged labor, commodity markets, and capitalist enterprise. For these reasons, citizens, community activists and activist academics around the country have begun to seek solutions at the local level to economic and social problems that seem intransigent in a national context. Their goal was the conceptualization and mobilization of alternative economies that can support forms of work that are creative, innovative, productive, collaborative–and committed to social justice. Strategies and forms of knowledge that humanists have defined can be particularly effective in helping to advance this kind of effort. They are pivotal in the conception of “Santa Cruz Commons: Activist Research and the Public Humanities.” The project’s Working Group considered how humanists can help to create such an alternative economy by redefining the meaning of work.