Understanding the process and complex dynamics of mutual aid
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:39 by Richard James White
In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest and commitment from both academic and wider policy-making circles in the meso and micro-levels of production and exchange in society. To this end, theoretical and empirical research has led to a more penetrative understanding of the cultural and social embeddedness of economic spaces. By bringing into focus the informal economic sphere, this in turn has placed activities conducted through mutual aid firmly under the academic and policy-making spotlight.;From an academic perspective however, it is clear that comparatively little is known about mutual aid, though significant progress has been made on mapping its more quantitative dimensions, such as its extent, character, social embeddedness and the key barriers that obstruct greater participation. This particular focus has exposed many prejudices about exchange in society, not least by providing evidence that mutual aid is far from a marginal or residual realm of daily life in advanced economies, and has resulted in the emergence of mutual aid as both a legitimate and serious focus for research to explore.;Through an in-depth case study of two urban areas in Leicester (England), the robustness of contemporary research will be tested by highlighting existing geographies of mutual aid. More fundamentally though, the discussion will depart from this into relatively uncharted territories by embracing the next significant phase of research on mutual aid. This involves engaging with a deeper and more qualitative understanding of the complex dynamics which underpin the geographies of mutual aid, and are themselves engaged through the process of mutual aid.;By focusing on the social dynamics of mutual aid; the internal dynamics of mutual aid; the notion of space, place and mutual aid; and the question as to why aid is so pervasive in the advanced economies, a more complicated and dynamic understanding of mutual aid in advanced economies emerges.