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Economic Anthropology

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Abstract/ Summary

This article explores the production of wealth through distributive labor in Maine's secondhand economy. While reuse is often associated with economic disadvantage, our research complicates that perspective. The labor required to reclaim, repair, redistribute, and reuse secondhand goods provides much more than a means of living in places left behind by international capitalism, but the value generated by this work is persistently discounted by dominant economic logics. On the basis of semistructured interviews, participant observation, and statewide surveys with reuse market participants in Maine, we find that the relational value of reuse, produced through caring, flexible, distributive labor, is especially significant. We argue that paying attention to the practices, politics, and value of distribution is critical for understanding wealth in communities perceived to have been left behind by global capitalist systems, particularly as wage labor opportunities and natural resources grow increasingly scarce.




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