Building Fair and Sustainable Economies

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* Book: Nelson A and Timmerman F (2011) (Eds) Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies. Pluto Press: London. ISBN: 978-0-7453-3165-2. Hardcover and paperback,

URL = blog

"'The book site includes testimonials, media, extracts from reviews and lists talks overseas and in Australia under events.".


"Do we need money? The authors of Life Without Money argue that we need to free ourselves from monetary values and relations to achieve democratic and meaningful relationships with one another and a sustainable dynamic with nature. Money is a key aspect of damaging practices that cannot be reformed.

Beyond constructive critiques of our world and its uncertain future, Life Without Money points out how we can stage a concerted collective revolution. Written by ten scholar-activists the book is an introductory field guide to contemporary non-market socialism.

Resuscitating the Left’s humanist critique of twentieth century communism and drawing on utopian, anarchist and Marxist literature, the contributors explore work refusal, self-management, gift economies, a collective labour-credit system, the non-monetary ecological economics of urban and rural squatters, and the radical economic philosophy of Che Guevara." (



1. Use Value and Non-Market Socialism: Introduces the book's themes and chapters, by Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman

Part I Critiques of Capitalism and Communism

2. Money versus Socialism: Examines the essential role of money in the economic structures of capitalism and market socialism, by Anitra Nelson.

3. Work Refusal and Self-Organisation: Focuses on the political implications of monetary structures and the creative power of people’s refusal to deal with monetary forms, by Harry Cleaver.

4. Money, Markets and Ecology: Delves into historical debates on the environment, non-monetary models, associational form of socialism and the potential and limitations of techniques of deliberative democracy, by John O'Neill

5. The Value of a Synergistic Economy: Reveals how capitalist economic and political structures determine and define the lives of women and the marginalised masses in the South, by Ariel Salleh.

6. A Gift Economy: Serves as a bridge to Part II in that its sociological critique includes a broad utopian vision of a gift economy that might evolve from already existing transitional ‘hybrid strategies’, which anticipate the values and relationships of such an economy, by Terry Leahy.

PART II Activism and Experiments

7. Non-Market Socialism: Explains how he became a member of an international party that advocates that socialism can only operate without money and analyses various socialist strategies of contemporary movements, by Adam Buick.

8. Self-Management and Efficiency: Speaks from the experience of socialism in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall, by Mihailo Marković

9. Labour Credit — Twin Oaks Community: Analyses a communal labour-credit system in a North American community that has operated for decades, by Kat Kinkade and Twin Oaks Community.

10. The Money-Free Autonomy of Spanish Squatters: Deals with the values and practices of squatters in Spain, by Claudio Cattaneo.

11. Contract and Converge: Draws together the main themes of the book and proposes a global–local strategy for achieving a world without money, a world beyond money, by Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman.


Chapter 11

"All the contributors to this book bring diverse understandings from different political and philosophy currents to support the major principles of non-market socialists, who advocate a money-free, market-free, wage-free, class-free and state-free global society. This chapter offers a vision for a non-monetary society based on collective sufficiency within bioregions and ‘contract and converge’ strategies for achieving it. It is not proposed as a one-and-only solution to current socio-political and environmental problems. Rather, it simply illustrates what other contributors to this collection have argued, that non-market socialism can be realised here and now. Although they might disagree with details of the vision and strategies advocated – in certain ways made clear in each of their chapters – we all agree that capitalism prevents us from addressing social injustice and achieving substantive democracy, and works against the establishment of sustainable living practices...

Although we know how to satisfy our needs more sustainably, the ways and principles of more sustainable living clash irreconcilably with capitalism. For instance, the speed, scale and variety of changes required to bring human activities into balance with the natural capacity of our planet means that we cannot pursue an economic system that depends on growth and ever-increasing world trade. We need to reorient our economic, social and political relationships around local collective sustainability. Such reorganisation must focus wholly and solely on use values, the qualities and quantities of natural matter and forces and human capacities and potential as they exist and might become through human energy and skills. To move from ‘here’ to ‘there’ will require strategies that achieving a general and shared modest standard of living in communities across the planet...

To achieve local collective sufficiency, people would need to take over the use rights and responsibilities for the catchment landscapes that substantially support them. Local, community-based forms of living, producing and exchanging that emphasise communal sufficiency are the most environmentally friendly because they minimise energy and resources otherwise wasted on transport and economise through providing directly for most daily needs...

In as much as local regions develop in communally sufficient ways they are socially and environmentally semi-autonomous, robust and resilient. Communal sufficiency overcomes limitations of self-sufficiency by economising on effort and by making use of economies of scale through the use of resources, including energy. Subsistence activities include growing, harvesting, collecting, storing and preserving foods in ways as environmentally friendly as possible, exercising principles such as those developed by the permaculture movement..." (


1. Anitra Nelson:

(preface from Anitra's Marx's Concept of Money book)

"'I began this study both because I believe that money is one of the most mysterious social facts today and because I sympathised with a Marxian perspective... I remain convinced that a humane and environmentally sustainable world is only achievable with the widespread adoption of the socialist values of sharing and caring... Although I regard the ethical rather than the so-called materialist identification of labour and value as most significant, I join Marx in opposing monetary reforms proposed by utopian socialists in his day and my own. Like him I believe that a real revolution requires dethroning money and overturning the state.'

'...Having read many and various theories of money in order to study [Marx's] in a broader context, I am very aware of the paucity of ambitious and sound analyses in this area. The reasons for this otherwise surprising fact are fairly clear; as Marx's biographer Mehring* observed "how should a world which had enthroned money a its God aspire to understand it?"' (

2. Matthew Switzer:

"Ever since I debated my economics-major college roommate about the paradox of value (aka the diamond-water paradox), and whether someone would ever trade a car for an apple (e.g. when the car owner is starving to death), it hit me that money — exchange value — is nothing more than an abstraction backed by “credit” that fuels the drive to produce, invest, extract and consume, inevitably drawing on the planet's ecologies as resources for this kind of development.

Beyond that, I was always intrigued by the more “anarchist” economic theories that called for the abolition of the wage-system, mutualism and mutual aid, etc. to free us from the wage-slavery in which we commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of a paycheck. Anyway, for the longest time I felt like no one really recognized this as a legitimate concern and even had a book in my head all lined up: "The Declaration of the Free Society for the Abolition of Money." But thanks to your book I can put that off for a while!

A while back Planet Drum Foundation put together a Bioregional Association of North America (BANA) to bring together bioregional groups and restore natural systems, develop sustainable practices, and create a cultural identity based on the nature of one's place. It was dissolved before I began working here, but I believe something like it is critical, and perhaps if it was organized as a moneyless economy, it could really open up volunteer opportunities for restoration projects and growing sustainable trade networks that could shift the economy away from material consumption of cheap plastics to a more healthy culture, eliminating detrimental work for money to survive and move instead towards more self-fulfilling life-styles. Such is the dream I guess, and I think Planet Drum would like to resurrect that project in some way.

Personally, I'd like to incorporate the idea of gift circles and non-monetary transactions as a primary method to halt the flows of capital and destructive practices of industry, and thought it would be a good idea to talk. The founding director of Planet Drum Foundation, Peter Berg, who did much to popularize the bioregional movement, was also part of the Diggers movement in the 60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area that called for what they termed “The inevitable gift economy,” also outlined in “A Modest Proposal,” so I thought it would be a great idea to start putting something together as part of our 40th anniversary next year. We'd like to offer the opportunity for those willing to get together and discuss the possibility for a new endeavor to these ends. It’s not against the rules of bioregionalism to help other bioregions, so what kinds of activities or communications are important to include in a global bioregional network? Who knows, maybe we set up a “Federation for the Reinhabitation of Earth’s Ecologies” (FREE), and do everything we can to live up to the name… :)"

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