- Slides: 46
What is money? Peter North, University of Liverpool
A note on positionality
Theorising Money n n n n The Evolutionqry School. The Commodity School. Capitalist Credit Money created by trusted institutions. A claim on commodities in the future. Monetarism. Chartalists: state-created money Simmell: universal money as freedom. Zelizer: Specialist money, emotional money.
“Household economic relations involve an intricate mix of intimacy and economic activity. They interweave long term commitment, continuous demands of co-ordination and reciprocity, relations to kin, friends and others outside the household. They impose shared vulnerability to the failures, mistakes and malfeasance of other household members … when households get into financial trouble or break up, economic interactions of family members add yet another layer of complexity: kin help the unemployed, and financial roles often reverse, with children, for instance, now supporting their parents. Intimacy and economic activity continue to intersect. ” (Zelizer 2005: 284)
Towards a theory of economic difference n n n There are different sorts of ‘transaction’ There are different forms of labour. There are different ways of generating and distributing a surplus, and Different ways of maintaining the commons. What are the diverse economic alternatives we could draw on What might be the role of alternative currencies?
The politics of alternative money The ‘money’ we use is simply a social construction, a collective agreement to accept a certain form of measurement, store of value, and unit of exchange. n Once we accept that money is not a thing ‘out there’, external to us, but a social construction, it follows that we can change it: n We can make collective agreements to use other forms of money that will operate (at least) as effectively as the money issued by states. n
Better Money? n n n Controlled by ‘us’, not ‘them’ Values people and work before profitability; Stresses liquidity to ensure that needs get met before artificial scarcity to ensure labour discipline and exchange rate or price stability; No or low interest – tool not end in itself. Variety to avoid vulnerability to crisis in money monocultures. A way to unleash what really matters, our creativity, visions, skills and resources.
Owen’s labour exchange n . “revenue has but one legitimate source - it is derived directly or indirectly from the labour of man”
1930 s stamp scrip - USA
“To all. Slowly circulating money has thrown the world into an unheard of crisis, and millions of working people are in a terrible need. From the economic viewpoint, the decline of the world has begun with horrible consequences for all. Only a clear recognition of these facts and decisive action can stop the breakdown of the economic machine, and save mankind from another war, confusion and dissolution. Men live from the exchange of what they can do. Through slow money circulation this exchange has been crippled to a large extent, and thus millions of men (sic) who are willing to work have lost their right to live in our economic system. The exchange of what we can do must, therefore, be again improved and the right to live regained for all of those who have been cast out”
Green Dollars/LETS Started 1987 Vancouver Island. ® Now many anglo-saxon countries. ® Directory, Checkbook, accountant. ® Currency is green dollars or a locally identified name. ® Locality is important. ® Denominated in national currency with hour referent /moral economy. n Backed by your personal commitment to repay ®
“I used it a lot because it had a lot of things I wanted, quite essential things rather than luxuries, things that others would not see as essential. And I really wanted those things and I was quite creative about getting them. Sometimes people, I managed to coax people to do things that they weren’t necessarily offering in the directory. I knew someone that was quite handy, and they'd done a bit of plumbing and I suggested that they would be able to remove some gas piping. I had this big gas thing in my front room and I wanted a fire there. I coaxed them into removing that, which was really good. Someone changed my toilet for me who. . who needed a little encouragement a bit but it was a brilliant job. A guy got my car through the MOT. . . So I felt like I really needed these things, so I went out to get them”. Katrina, Manchester LETS
Time Money denominated in hours: one hour, one credit. ® Co-production social service ethos is crucial. ® Balance does not matter – generational solidarity. ® Connections made by a broker and by telephone. ® Usually more successful when run by a social services agency. ® Unlike LETS, does reach the poor/excluded/elderly. Found in inner cities, outer estates. ®
Ithaca’s vision “Ithacans have the talent to rebuild our economic base, to create a more ecologically and socially just economy which employs more of us, more reliably, at creative healthy work. We can revitalise The Commons, establish clean, locally-owned industry, promote local agriculture and worker ownership, and relieve the cost of living”
Mass use: Argentina.
Living from the Trueque A third microemprendir made pancakes. At the market where we met her she took home enough vegetables for three days, a shaver, a torch, garlic, twelve little pizzas (enough for one family meal), juice, a packet of biscuits, toilet paper; four lemons (enough for a week); and she still had some creditos left over. Before the crash, just visiting nodes on Saturdays and Sundays, she could get enough to eat for the whole week, even too much for the week: “for me it was like a job. . . that year I could live of the trueque, more or less”. But it was not an easy life – meat would be scarce. She had to budget carefully, and with a friend she set up a system where specific items would be searched out from the myriad nodes. Without careful planning, she said, “if you are not a realist, you’re lost … it worked very well for me, but you did have to be going around”.
Solidarity and support n n n “We are all friends” “we are like a large solidaristic family” “yes, it is wonderful, we talk and talk, ideas are exchanged and friendships are made”. ‘Charly, before you came we used to greet each other; now we know each other’. “I have lived solidarity … here you chose what you consume; the encounter with things is different; I’m taking [home] things made with love”. “it is therapeutic; we are all in the same situation; if we had money we wouldn’t come here; here there are no differences between different social classes”.
“ Our main stand is that barter networks are able to reinvent the market and not only reinclude people that have been excluded by globalisation, but – even beyond – can include people never included before. We believe that we need not oppose this new market to the formal market, but we need rather to develop our ability to join them, in different rhythms and forms, if we choose to do it. We also believe we need not oppose to government but rather develop our ability to act with government in order to build the democratic life with equity and solidarity instead of competition and exclusion. Finally we believe that barter networks is able to re-shuffle cards to build a new social game. ” n (Primavera, De Sanzo et al. 1998).
Creating alternatives to paid work “I actually run a small one person business. … So, yes. It has helped. The fact that my business is going ahead and I’m turning it to a Kiwi (dollar) business is one that I started off doing bits and pieces for people on Green Dollars. … Because I don’t think I would have had the courage to go out on alone. … To me it’s a case of Green Dollars showing me a way that I can beat the system by working by myself to do things. … Green Dollars actually gives me security because I know if I go out there and do the extra, I’m going to get what I want. … It depends on a person’s mental attitude often to work. If you enjoy your work nine-to-five, that’s fine. If you don’t enjoy it’s a killer. But the Green dollars, I can do what I want, when I want to do it. I enjoy this more (than a nine to five job) I’ve got freedom. If I wanted to work from two o’clock until five o’clock in the morning, fine, I can go and do it and I often do. ” Jan, Wellington Green Dollars
“A natural tendency to barter, truck and trade” “I’ve been trading most of my life. … as I was always trading anyway I could be a good member of the club, and yes we do trading every so often, me and my partner, and we do all sorts with the veggies, care giving, baby sitting, catering, all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Been in a couple of years, and I think we do at least two or three trades a month. My other half does gardens and steps for someone at the moment, for a member, and we’ve done wood. . Fruit and vegetables, plants, housework. Not part of a system, but we’ve always traded something for something. For example, we did housekeeping for a fireplace. Did stuff and got wood for the fire. My daughter is three, and 90% of the children’s clothes are traded for other clothes. We only spend money when we sorta have to spend money. But New Zealand is one of the richest countries for trading, because somebody always needs something that you might have, like baby stuff and baby knitting, … Most people don’t know what’s under their noses for trading. You’ve just got to open your eyes a wee bit for trading purposes. Lynn, Blenheim Green Dollars
Alternative Economic Spaces “It was kind of an icon, I suppose. [laughs] And philosophically it’s what a lot of people believe in. … it’s been around for a while, it’s something that we can identify with, you know, it feels good, you know, people say, oh yes, I’ve been a part of that for so long. Yes. I don’t know if icon is the right word, but … (emblematic? ) … Yes, yes. … we tend to want to do things a little bit different here, yes. … I suppose part of it is the isolation, and having something that’s unique to itself, although there’s other ones around. It’s something that people say, yes, this is something that’s unique to Golden Bay, this is part of one of the things that’s Golden Bay. (Golden Bay attracts) a lot of artists, a lot of natural healers, probably a lot of people who would like to try to get by without having a large income. People who like rural environments. The climate’s pretty good, , the rivers, the ocean. The town, going through the town, it’s a pretty interesting town, all the different types of shops. It’s not a typical New Zealand town. I would say people are probably not in such a hurry as in other places. There’s a lot of artists who work here, the natural environment is very beautiful. And it’s probably, the people who are tired of the rat race let’s say. ” Murray, HANDS, Golden Bay
A humane economy “I see it as a balanced economy - a balance between men and women, between the masculine and feminine in each of us. . . An economy that calls on each of us to practice in that kind of way is more likely to soften people than this horrendous situation that frightens so many people - men as much as women“ “The LETS community does look at a transaction as a relationship whereas the commercial world looks upon a transaction as a transaction. You need some respect for the person you are dealing with as you know they don't have to do it. It's got to be mutually beneficial, whereas a transaction in the real world does not have to be. . . there's an imbalance of power. ”
A demonstrator of liberation ”To me LETS is mainly about the. . . educative thing. I mean, the kind of capitalist cynicism that goes around, about market forces and about the laws of supply and demand about people being basically greedy gits that rip people off all the time, I think LETS is a good way of demonstrating, 'No - that's not actually true'. People are capable of being like that but they are also capable of being different. LETS is a good way of demonstrating to people even if they are not actually involved in it. They can see, well there's a community, a community that's scattered around Manchester. "
“There’s still a moment of breathlessness when you hold a Brixton Pound in your hand. As if you were somehow touching the stuff of life. And in a way you are. Because money is like blood. It circulates around us, and when it disappears somewhere – because of some squall on Wall Street – our lives seize up a little. Money is life, and we can make our own. That’s why I say those Brixton pound notes are alive. It is a small liberation to use one. A bit like the moment Gandhi made salt for the first time. a symbolic moment of revolt, using the stuff of life. So every time we use one of these notes, it seems to me – and we are going to have to use them if this is going to work – it is a moment of liberation. ” David Boyle, new economics foundation.
“I think it’s fantastic: I love the idea that it feels like anarchy, it feels like a real sort of, two fingers up in the air to big business, to Tesco, to a system that, not through choice, I am part of. It feels resilient, exciting and brave. It feels like a step out in a different direction, Its very empowering. . It’s a real act of positive defiance. . . I love it!” Jane Rose. Transition Stroud
The transition currencies? n n n n Incentives: strong or lacking? Incentives for whom? Trade offs? Trust and transparency Town or regional pride? The materiality of the currency Everyday spending and banking practices. The extent or otherwise of existing or possible local circuits of production and exchange. Scale: material and ethical localisation.
Alternative currencies as rurql development mechanisms ® ® ® ® As utopian politics - demonstration of possibilities. Learning about money, society, and work - and learning to live in more convivial and cooperative ways. Money – did enable people to create new forms of money and think about it in different ways. Livelihood -makes alternative livelihoods possible, if you have the resources, especially in some places. Are they are attractive to large numbers of people contestable – but note transition movement. Is a move from circulation to production possible? Is the very local the right scale? Local pride.
Towards a theory of economic difference n n n There are different sorts of ‘transaction’ There are different forms of labour. There are different ways of generating and distributing a surplus, and Different ways of maintaining the commons. Are there certain places where this all comes together?
“The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i. e. , to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. ”
Localisation – or local money? “I believe in supporting local small businesses, I have a tremendous awareness of how in Great Barrington and towns like this, small businesses support each other. (But) I don’t see how a second currency advances that cause. ” “The plain truth is that Berkshares are mostly irrelevant now, they are so little used that they don't even amount to an annoyance. They simply don't matter, or really amount to anything anymore. Berkshares became a distraction and detraction from the legitimate work that Schumacher stood for. ”