Friday, January 13, 2012

Non-monetary exchange in a monetary world

I belong to the Demonetize it! discussion group. Recently David wrote, ‘I think we need to be quite assertive in certain contexts — and be aware that people will (as Frank has reminded us) try to turn gifts into profits if the opportunity arises to do so.
‘It has also become evident to me that many people interested in "open-source" — and, indeed, "ecology" — have little or no interest in alternatives to commerce. Likewise with many people who aspire to self-sufficiency, or getting "off-the-grid" — they have little or no interest in the fostering of solidarity or cooperation, or sharing, or the gift economy. Indeed, living a "green lifestyle" for many people means acquiring several acres of land, building a fence around it, and keeping it more-or-less to themselves (while charging anyone who wants to make use of it).

‘This is an issue which has struck me numerous times when discussing with people interested in self-sufficiency — lots of talk about "sustainability", but very little about sharing or cooperation.’

I responded: ‘We don't talk about self-sufficiency but rather collective sufficiency so that shared decision making over production and exchange is implicit. Even so, my experience in Australia has been that most people who are into self-sufficiency are into simple living and have a collective and mutual aid mentality. However, you are quite right that there have always been individualistic hermit and entrepreneurial hippy stereotypes who are all for themselves, the former in pure self-sufficiency and the latter in exploitative forms. For these reasons we come to the notion of supporting “collective sufficiency” so the social is at the heart of it — see our Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network blog for event coming up this Saturday.’

In fact Frank’s and David’s discussion stresses why consciously and conscientiously moving to a money-free world is so important. Frustrations and difficulties with current sustainability and social movements (e.g. ‘fair trade’, co-operatives etc., which often contain such contradictions) pushed us into embarking on the Life Without Money book. It’s also why we have a chapter on Twin Oaks community (see post below), where the common purse becomes a way of limiting the eroding effects of the monetary economy, to show that we can transition in viable ways and steps towards a different world. Our vision of collective sufficiency embraces a common purse as a transitional strategy to a moneyfree economy where everyone and the planet’s needs are met.

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