Free will, creative power and the good life


Author: Elisabeth Loibl
Category: Economy
Issue No: 88

Systems of domination and money fixation push what is actually elementary, namely the good life itself, our manifold relationships with each other and the appreciation of Mother Earth, into the background. But the question is how to achieve and lead a different way of life. Researchers on matriarchal societies and subsistence farming provide valuable impulses and practical suggestions for the necessary transformation.

With this contribution, I intend to take an in-depth look at how we can free ourselves from the difficult situation in which we currently find ourselves through a loving, caring and prudent view of people and the world. Which previous view of things would have to be abandoned for this? Which unpleasant facts have to be taken note of? How can we bring our thinking, feeling and acting into harmony?





The starting point is the question of what we can learn in this context from matriarchal forms of society that are focused on subsistence, the provisioning of the community.

After describing what the subsistence approach and matriarchal research is about, I realized I would rather ask the question the other way around. My thesis is, we humans were created for this way of living. So what has happened to us when we consider ways of life antiquated, unlivable nowadays, or backward that correspond to our humanity? That would cause us to live caringly and in harmony with others and nature? How could we get into such a lifestyle that is hostile to life, destructive, and alien to our essence? And above all, I ask myself, why do we consider ourselves powerless to stop the destruction of our relationships and livelihoods?

Before I turn to these questions, first of all some definitions, since we can understand conditions only if we use tangible terms. I am reluctant to speak of patriarchy because I believe this would imply male-only domination.

However, my perception is that most men are also disadvantaged by the prevailing conditions, they cannot develop their potential any more than we women can.

There are many women who support this system of mutual oppression as well
and in turn prevent others from self-development.


The subsistence perspective focuses on providing all the necessary products and services for daily life.

In contrast, the neoliberal market economy is about the commercialization of life and natural resources, the acquisition of money, and profit maximization. The difference in economic terms is evident in the question: money or life (cf. Bennholdt-Thomsen 2010)?

Nowhere is this fundamental distinction more evident than in our

everyday life, which is very much shaped by gainful employment, by being forced to earn money.

Therefore, according to Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen in her lecture, work would be reduced merely to gainful employment. All too easily we forget that there are a number of jobs that are necessary for our lives but do not fall into the realm of earning money. Subsistence/care work in the household and family is usually noticed when it is not done, because it is taken for granted as long as the household, family care of children, dependent and elderly people is done. Whereby those who perform these tasks almost invisibly are mostly women. Regularly cooking a meal, preparing a snack, creating a cozy home, listening to the worries and problems of others, giving someone a friendly or parental advice, these are not activities that are “hung on the big bell”. All those works and mutual services that we depend on to feel well and nourished, both physically and emotionally, have been increasingly commercialized since the 20th century, outsourced by families, because both women and men spend their daily lives primarily earning money.

This was one of the main points of attack on the subsistence approach, also called ecofeminism. When care work in the home and family, motherhood, and childcare are seen as an important focus in everyday life, experience shows that there is resistance from feminists, because they see all of this work as regressive. Motherhood and the accompanying distribution of roles became an “institution of the oppression of women” by the dominance society; in it, children are no longer a self-determined task for women (Göttner-Abendroth 1998: 51f).


In terms of economics, an essential prerequisite for change would be the model of the gift economy, founded by Genevieve Vaughan (2009). Barter is about considering what do I have and can be bartered to get this or that. These days, that is usually money. In contrast, giving is about giving what is in abundance to those who need it. If a child is given everything it needs to live from an early age, it will be just as generous in passing on what it has in abundance. However, in our culture there are very many needy parents. Therefore, children often grow up providing for others, including adults. They do this out of love, even if this in turn makes them needy parents.

This shows that economics cannot be separated from human needs, nor from social and ecological systems. The prevailing financial system, which requires constant economic growth and thereby destruction of nature, keeps all three systems in an unholy imbalance. So here, too, it is necessary to eradicate the evil from the root. This makes generous behavior possible again, which makes life easier and brings joy in a simple way.


In the Mexican city of Juchitán, there has always been a tradition of spending any surpluses in the form of joint celebrations. Year in, year out, a smaller or larger neighborhood party is celebrated almost every day. This prevents what is known in this country as capital accumulation. The “Limosna”, a donation of money to the organizers of the festival according to their income, contributes to a redistribution of money. People also bring drinks and food (cf. Bennholdt-Thomsen 1994).

About the author: Dr. Elisabeth Loibl

Elisabeth Loibl, *1963, research associate at the Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics and Mining Research, graduate and 2012 to 2019 lecturer at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, since the late 1990s subsistence perspective and matriarchy research. Author of: The Bread of Confidence (2003), Deep Ecology. A Loving View of the Earth (2014).

This article has also been published on the German Website: Der freie Wille, die schöpferische Kraft und das Gute Leben

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