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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Revaluations, by Caroline Hunt

In 1901, the progressive, feminist home economist, Caroline Hunt, presented a philosophically-oriented paper entitled, "Revaluations", which discussed home economics as the practical AND philosophical core of liberation and social relationships. (See Caroline Hunt: Philosopher for Home Economics by Marjorie East, 1982). Although I disagree with some of her statements, for example, that the women of the early 1900s who continued to make their own soap were enslaved to that task when they could free themselves for other things if they made the choice to purchase pre-made soaps, there are other statements that I find interesting.

Caroline begins the Revaluations like this: "Vacations are to the worker opportunities not only for bodily recuperation, but also for orientation, and for getting a view of [her or his] work in its wider relations". Later on she writes, "Progress comes when a [person] is sufficiently clear-headed to deduce from [their] own experience a correct conclusion in contradiction to the world's conclusions as expressed in custom, and is strong enough to institute for [themselves] a new line of procedure." I wouldn't be quoting these two statements if I didn't agree with them. But if I follow Caroline's line of thinking, when I come to my own conclusion that "enslaving" myself to the task of making my own butter is my "new line of procedure" based on the evaluation of my experience, then I am progressive.

This was the kind of thinking that Professor Mark Shutes of Youngstown State University was teaching me as an undergraduate in anthropology - to understand the individual as choices were made (Mark died in 2001 from pancreatic cancer). In our research, we were understanding individual farmer choices in the town of ancient Korinth on the Greek Peloponnese and recording crop choices using GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Even though customs in farming choices could be had, farmers continually proceeded with farming options that would often shock their neighbors, and of course some choices were incremental steps in new directions based on current economic knowledge and risk.

Did the Greek farmers go on vacation to re-orient their thinking and return knowing what crop and how much to plant next? I don't know. What I do know is that when we step away from the farm, leave our office desks behind, put down the hammer and nails, leave the house cleaning for another day, stop flipping hamburgers, get our noses out of pre-written philosophy books, and take even just a few days vacation for "orientation", we've set ourselves on a path of renewal, self-understanding, and broader perspective. That's what I call a souvenir.


  1. Another great post! I'm reminded of other readings - nothing specific that I can recall at this moment beyond just saying some of it was Claire Wolfe - singing the praises of loafing or "doing nothing", acting as a mental recharge and breaking up the dams in our thinking allowing our thoughts to flow free again.

    I'm also tickled by the mention of GIS, my current profession. I'm contemplating returning to school to pursue something more scientifically based, possibly geology or physical geography, with a heavy mapping emphasis in order to utilize my experience and fondness for the field. Your research sounds like something I would have enjoyed from the mapping perspective, anyway. Maybe I'll look at schools again today!

  2. I love GIS!

    The notion of "revaluations" whereby something is revalued includes ourselves. What is our individual value? How much do we have, where do we get it, and how do we lose it? How can people revalue themselves? Even though individuals have value, what is that value in context with others? For myself, I feel like I've built value into my life in the past, then decided that whatever I had become wasn't of value anymore, so I changed.

    I don't recall intentionally devaluing myself to get to a point where revaluation was necessary. Loafing in itself is of value! Really, I've had days where I can't take anymore input (visual, auditory, verbal). I just want it all to shut off. Just a few minutes is all it takes to recover, like when doing ab crunches - LOL. A whole day or a whole week of shutting it all down would be interesting, maybe even magical, but I doubt I'll ever know.

  3. According to the Austrian school of economics, value is very subjective and changes with the beholder. Self-valuation, then to me, is nothing more than self-perception. A revaluation of self may include becoming unhappy with some aspect of one's life resulting in the starting an exercise regiment, continuing education, or simply relieving stress (such as loafing). In the context of others, one's percieved self-value is affected by their surroundings, especially other people.

    Individuals' values to those around them change as those other folks' values change. We are each filling in gaps in our relations' lives, as those gaps change, so, too, does our value to them and vice versa. For instance a church-going christian may hold a minister up to some value, if that belief is abandoned, then the value of that minister has drastically changed.