Across scholarly and popular accounts, self-reliance is often interpreted as either the embodiment of individual entrepreneurialism, as celebrated by neoliberal designs, or the basis for communitarian localism, increasingly imagined as central to environmental and social sustainability. In both cases, self-reliance is framed as an antidote to the failures of larger state institutions or market economies. This paper offers a different framework for understanding self-reliance by linking insights drawn from agrarian studies to current debates on alternative economies. Through an examination of the social worlds of semisubsistence producers in peripheral zones in the Global North, we show how everyday forms of self-reliance are mutually constituted with states and markets, particularly through interactions with labor institutions and hybrid property regimes linking individual and collective interests. We draw on empirical data from two ethnographic case studies connected by a shared colonial history and continuing local mythologies of frontier self-sufficiency: salmon fisheries in rural Alaska in the US, and agrofood economies in socialist and postsocialist Lithuania. In each site we find that although local expressions of self-reliance diverge in critical respects from neoliberal visions, these forms of everyday autonomy are nevertheless enlisted to promote market liberalization, ultimately threatening the very conditions that have long sustained semisubsistence producers' self-reliance in the first place.
Eastern European Studies Commons, Environmental Studies Commons, Human Geography Commons, Other International and Area Studies Commons, Place and Environment Commons, Rural Sociology Commons, Social and Cultural Anthropology Commons