Household Economics

Practicing Purposeful Living in a Global Commons

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Whatever the form of our household-an urban apartment, an upscale residence in the "burbs," a farmhouse, a nursing home, a trailer, a brownstone, or the office where we find ourselves "living"-the places we call "home" define our basic ways of life. We count on the predictable motion of moving into, through, and from "our space." The way we routinely approach our home and fumble for key or doorbell is coupled with a sometimes surprisingly fierce sense that it matters to us whether or not we have a Christmas tree in our window in December or candles on the table on Friday evening and food-indeed, the food we particularly like-in the fridge and cupboard. Our households are anchoring places where, over time, we craft the practices by which we prosper or fail to prosper.

For most, "economics" suggests something quite different: money, markets, investment, trade, taxes, profit, loss, and the cultivation of wealth understood in those terms. As such, "economics" in the complexity of the contemporary world is presumed to be something understood only by the experts-economists, bankers, brokers, budget directors, accountants, attorneys, and other financial advisers. In fact, the word economics is grounded in a much broader set of meanings.

Like the words ecumenical and ecology, economics is rooted in the Greek word oikos, meaning household, and signifies the management of the household-arranging what is necessary for well-being. Good economic practice-positive ways of exchanging goods and services-is about the well-being, the livelihood, of the whole household.

RECONSIDERING THE WELL-BEING OF THE HOUSEHOLD

We are undergoing a profound reordering of our shared planet-household, our economic-ecological-ecumenical life. While the notion of "home" in American culture has shrunk from meaning one's town or region to meaning only one's own house or apartment, at the same time, paradoxically, it has become less possible to isolate our individual households from the world around them. As we try to defend the security of our private home, we are simultaneously rediscovering the economic-ecological truth of our profound interdependence within the small planet home we share.

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Sharon Daloz Parks is a Senior Fellow at the Whidbey Institute in Clinton, Washington. She is the author of Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith and co-author of Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World.  In addition to her vital role on the Krista Foundation Advisory Board, Sharon is the godmother to Krista Hunt Ausland.


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