Generative Justice

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= "relations of open reciprocity, communal sharing, gift-giving and voluntary collaboration allowed value to circulate in its unalienated forms, including labor power, political expression and interspecies ecological exchanges". [1]

Contextual Citation

"Stressing the definition of generative justice not only as bottom-up circulation of unalienated value, but also the rights of value generators to create their own conditions of production is a crucial foundation for in reconceptualizing social justice and sustainability."

- Ron Eglash [2]


1. Ron Eglash:

"Marx proposed that capitalism’s destructive force is caused, at root, by the alienation of labor value from its generators. Environmentalists have added the concept of unalienated ecological value, and rights activists added the unalienated expressive value of free speech, sexuality, spirituality, etc. Marx’s vision for restoring an unalienated world by top-down economic governance was never fulfilled. But in the last 30 years, new forms of social justice have emerged that operate as “bottom-up”. Peer-to-peer production such as open source software or wikipedia has challenged the corporate grip on IP in a “gift exchange” of labor value; community based agroecology establishes a kind of gift exchange with our nonhuman allies in nature. DIY citizenship from feminist makerspaces to queer biohacking has profound implications for a new materialism of the “knowledge commons”; and restorative approaches to civil rights can challenge the prison-industrial complex. In contrast to top-down “distributive justice,” all of the above are cases of bottom-up or “generative justice”." (

2. Ron Eglash:

"in contrast to Marx’s theory of distributive justice, we seek a theory of generative justice: one in which society is best served when value extraction is minimized, and when the communities who are generating value—not Adam Smith’s capital or Marx’s state—are in charge of its circulation. If we phrase this in the language of “rights”—which is not the only way to think about it--we can define generative justice as follows:The universal right to generate unalienated value and directly participate in its benefits; the rights of value generators to create their own conditions of production; and the rights of communities of value generation to nurture self-sustaining paths for its circulation." (

3. Taylor C. Dotson & James E. Wilcox:

"The generative justice model, in contrast, proposes “closing the loop.” That is, value generated by labor and/or nature are to be governed by the people and recirculated within the systems doing the producing, rather than redistributed by a centralized state. By allowing values to be circulated, as opposed to simply extracted, generative capacity is built at the roots or from the “bottom-up” to a greater extent. Eglash and Garvey (2014) offer up the Open Source movement as well as the self-organized, decentralized irrigation systems used by Balinese farmers for centuries as exemplary cases. In both instances, generated values produced by members of a community are largely circulated and enjoyed within that same community." (


Generative Justice Tradition in Africa

Ron Eglash and Ellen Foster:

"Traditional African concepts of self-generation, like many indigenous cultures, neither focus on extracting value for export elsewhere, nor on elevating the purity of nature over culture. Rather, they depend on collaborations of humans and non-humans in which value is 1) allowed to remain in non-extracted, unalienated forms, and 2) circulated from the bottom-up. In Africa this generative recursion has many different symbols, but one of the most vivid is the West African icon of a snake biting its own tail (figure 1). There are two underlying principles. One is what engineers might model as negative feedback: preventing greed, value hoarding, wealth inequality or other dynamics from extracting value. This is well visualized by a Baule carving in which each crocodile has the other’s tail in its jaws, “the chief and the people in balance” (figure 2). The other principle is what engineers might model as positive feedback; a self-expanding source of value, sometimes disruptive or even chaotic, as we see in a second Baule carving, “the cycle of life” (figure 3)." ([3])

For more, see: African Traditions, Maker Communities and the Politics of Generative Justice

Kuapa Kokoo Chocolate Production System

Ron Eglash:

"At first it might seem that the Adinkra production system, while admirable for its sus-tainability, is at best an artifact of the past. But the system took a remarkable turn in 1993 when a traditional animist priest, Nana Frimpong Abebrese, decided to organize cocoa farmers under similar principles: a collective in which the common pool of resources would benefit the whole. Kuapa Kokoo Ltd (the name means “good cocoa farmer”) obtained a loan from Twin Trading, a UK fair trade company, and set up 22 villages with weighing scales, tarpaulins, gratings and other basics. Their mission is to empower low-income farmers, in-crease women's participation, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation. In 1998, with the help of Twin and other NGOs, Kuapa Kokoo launched UK-based chocolate com-pany Divine, with the funtunfunefu and asase symbols proudly displayed on the front wrapper (figure 4). Today Kuapa Kokoo has 65,000 members organized in about 1400 villages. Profits from their 45% ownership in Divine chocolate are reinvested in village projects for water, health, and education, as well as preventing child labor and adapting to climate change. When it comes to low-income African farmers becoming owners of a multimillion dollar chocolate empire, it’s hard to argue against generative justice." (

More Information

Key Concepts

Key Examples

Introductory Articles

Other Articles

  • EGLASH, R., & GARVEY, C. (2014). Basins of attraction for generative justice. In S. Banerjee et al.

(Eds.), Chaos Theory in Politics (pp. 75-88). Germany: Springer Science.

  • EGLASH, R. (2014, April 15). Generative justice: The revolution will be self-organized. Tikkun.