An Alternative Ethic: Belonging

By Rachel Davis

DISCLAIMER: For the duration of this article, I ask you to have an open, dreaming mind, to find ideals within our community power and within ourselves, and without capitalism. I will only focus on what I deem as pertinent to feeling a sense or lack of belonging. I will not dive into all of the crevices of a capitalist system.

Over dinner, bourbon, and cigarettes – a group of my friends and I gather to talk about our hopes and dreams. We are together to share our hearts, ideas, and visions of what the world could be and how we can be a part of that change.

My friend shares – he is a very angry person. He is a very lonely person. However, our gathering, our finding of our kin, and our acceptance of each other, has brought him so much comfort. And with our collective action, we can fight against the hegemonic forces in the world.

A comfort we all long for.

A comfort we all deserve – to belong.

“My body is burning with the shame of not belonging; my body is longing.” – Warsan Shire, excerpt from Conversations about Home

Why is it that we feel like we don’t belong? Together, let’s analyze, breakdown, and indict the way capitalism structures our sense of belonging and value in the world.


The labor market commodifies ability, which defines what abilities are valuable. Thus, the view on wellness under capitalism is the ability to labor 40 hrs/week (sometimes more or less). By its nature of exchanging labor for survival, capitalism holds the power to deem people valuable or not – who belongs and who doesn’t, who capitalism has a need for and who it excludes.

Capitalism is an exclusionary and ableist system.

The analysis in capitalistic terms: capitalism says people who don’t work, don’t belong. This can be based on their ability, what they do/have done, where they came from, and so on. However, a human value system says everybody is valuable, everybody belongs. This value system is fundamentally an anticapitalist framework.

And I want to ask, what about me? Where do I fit into the equation? If capitalism reigns, and I still live with chronic illness, then where do I go from here?

But, who else does it cut out?

Who does it deem unwell, unnecessary, unwanted?

Who does it deem unfit for survival?

Who does capitalism deem unfit for survival?

Although capitalism hinders various groups of people, it excludes first on a tenet of those who do not have the ability to labor for survival and those who are seen as excess (without need). Exclusionary structures must be removed – borders, prisons, and ableism. They inherently build a hierarchy that determines someone’s value based on what they can and can’t do, who capitalism has space for, and who it deems necessary. Thus, if everyone belongs:

+ Why are people warehoused in prisons? Capitalism excludes people who have broken the law, based on what they’ve done and on their mental states. It confines and cages them, instead of them being dealt with, supported by, and loved by their communities.

+ Why are people being treated as lesser than for having different abilities? Capitalism deems people with various levels of ability as unfit for survival, because of its need for productive and efficient abilities. It debiliates, ignores, and disables them, instead of accepting and accommodating them for the way they are.

To indict people, whether criminally, medically, or otherwise, based on what they contribute to a system of production is to exclude their value and belonging. And an alternative ethic is to indict the system of capitalism, because everybody is valuable, equally, on a fundamental level.



+ Sick Woman Theory — a piece about capitalism excluding people with chronic illness.

+ The Icarus Project — a network of people/resources about mental dynamism and acceptance.

+ Rustbelt Abolition Radio: Carceral Ableism & Disability Justice — a podcast episode about the intersections of ableism, racial capitalism, and incarceration.

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