Vis Vitae: the path not taken
Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
The idea of vital energy underpins social life and the economy in rural Latin America. Locally known as strength, vis vitae is assembled from the environment, consumed in food, and expended to gather more. By sharing in its production and consumption, and by offering vital energy in festivities and gifts, people distribute and receive strength, and become connected in families, houses, and community. Strength, which resembles the notion of energy in thermodynamics, is the shared current if not the currency of rural economies. But this biosocial current must be managed and used parsimoniously to have a sustainable economy. Given our contemporary economic crisis, with its heightened unemployment, widening wealth gaps, and unrelenting carbon pollution, I shall use the rural idea of vis vitae, seen as energy, current, and currency, to re-imagine a market economy.
Economic crisis or the crisis of an imagined economy