Mending Hearts: How a ‘Repair Economy’ Creates a More Caring Community

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From The Conversation: “Just a few decades ago, manufacturers packaged everyday appliances with instructions on how to repair them. Now they come with danger warnings and threats that doing so will void the warranty.

Repair is discouraged by unavailable replacement parts, glued assemblies and tamper-proof cases that are difficult to open. So we discard things rather than fix them.

Much research suggests this harms more than the natural environment. It also affects our mental environment. There’s a connection between the way society treats material objects and the way it treats people.

Returning to an economy of repair could help create a kinder, more inclusive society. By mending broken things we might also help mend what’s broken in ourselves . . .

As Europe starts banning the disposal of unsold and returned consumer products, a mounting body of research shows that repair economies can make people happier and more humane.

During research for my 2017 book Tinkering: Australians Reinvent DIY Culture, I learned how material repair generates a deep sense of care, pride, belonging and civic participation.

Even solitary acts of repair involve a community of influences. Through acts of repair we experience products as expressions of our collective knowledge. Repaired products become bearers and extensions of personhood: like genomes, they carry their pasts within their presence.

By contrast, product obsolescence ‘blocks our access to the past’, argues Francisco Martínez, an ethnographer at the University of Helsinki. His research found repair was ‘helping people overcome the negative logic that accompanies the abandonment of things and people’. Repair made ‘late modern societies more balanced, kind and stronger’. It was a form of care, of ‘healing wounds’, binding generations of humanity together.”

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