”A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.”
Establishing a local currency, together with taking over credit union boards (to gain access to credit), can provide the complement to Community Economic Development (social enterprises including cooperatives, and social enterprise networks) to fortify the working class against capital strike, blackmail and dysfunction.
Common Good Finance in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
“We need to re-democratize the monetary system, to have a set of alternatives for issuing credit outside the banking oligarchy. Alternative currencies can play a vital role in that”
Josh Ryan-Collins, the New Economics Foundation.
This Guardian article, “Currency stays close to home,” reviews the successful rise of the local chiemgauer currency in Rosenheim-Traunstein, Germany. The chiemgauer was designed and operates to stimulate spending in the local economy, as well as to provide a work-around (or strategic counter to) financial capital illiquidity.
Yes! Magazine covers local currency innovations in “Dollars with Good Sense: DIY Cash.”
Other promising social movement initiatives that OWS has opened up space for:
Note on UK cooperatives:
There are some quite big co-ops in the UK. They’re not perfect, and still run on similar lines to normal corporations. On the other hand they are far better than corporations, treat their workers better (who after all are technically the owners of some of them – others are owned in theory by shoppers) and tend to take social responsibility quite seriously. Executive pay, while still too high, is far lower than comparable private companies.
Along similar lines, Building Societies in the UK were owned by customers (so essentially non-profit) and for the most part were run fairly well. They offered a better service, better rates and were fairly conservatively run. They were famirly limited in the activities they were allowed to engage in. They were strictly a consumer financing deal (mostly houses). Most of them were force-privatised by the conservatives, but the remaining ones have mostly weathered the crisis fairly well. In comparison to their private breathren, none of whom now survive. The bank which endured the bank run in the UK, Northern Rock, was an ex building society.
W. L. Gore and Associates is perhaps an example of an interim culture existing in the US. Far far from perfect, but hints of what might be nonetheless.
Economic Value: A Sociological View
I think one of our problems right now is that we don’t know how to think about value. There is an excess of hurried, automatic, breathless dismissal of Marx’s classic political-economy theory of value, including by Marxists and other leftists; but I think we ought to stop for a moment, and reconsider the common-sense dismissal we’ve arrived at, at this point in history. It’s blinding us to things we need to think about.
I think we’re missing Marx’s point about value, which perhaps requires a sociological perspective (and, Varoufakis, is not incompatible with theories of value that recognize entrepreneurial activity as the locus of value in an economy). Paul Burkett (Marx and Nature 1999) is one of the clearest contemporary writers on the Marxist understanding of value.
Simply, economic value is a social product, created through creative, reflexive, semi-deterministic/semi-voluntaristic relational, social (human) work upon nature. Value isn’t something that is made within the capitalist market, when profits are realized in the sphere of circulation. That production-circulation separation is maintained through money, so that value can be controlled by capitalists–but price and value cannot be identical. Value is a product of creative, active human relations. Price is a product of capitalist control of value.
That economic value is produced by creative, active human relations is why capitalists are always trying to privatize, to mine the public and the commons–there’s value in them thar human creations.
People, even leftists, who are overly trained in marginalism and other modern conservative economics get caught up in the price calculation mode, and so sometimes fail to see that people coming together to build alternative economic institutions is creating value, and creating independence from capitalist coercion. Didn’t capitalists once create institutions that afforded them independence from the feudal value system, when the contradictions of that feudal system created crisis?