Complementary Currencies After the Crisis

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PhD (2012-2015) supervised by Gill Seyfang and Tom Hargreaves at the University of East Anglia


Gill Seyfang:

Phedeas’s PhD research focuses on how the economic crisis influences grassroots civil action for sustainability. It aims to investigate the impacts and effects of the downturn on complementary currency networks and the associated practices of the actors involved.


"Discussions about grassroots moves towards sustainable consumption raise both systemic and social challenges. Whilst it is increasingly recognised that civil society actors have an important role to play in the transition to a sustainable society, with complementary currencies often treated as the localised archetype of a solution to the problem of unsustainable consumption (cf. Seyfang 2009), a growing number of academics around the world acknowledge an array of intrinsic and diffusion challenges undermining the practical effectiveness of these actors and their associated schemes (cf. Smith 2006; Seyfang 2009).

Nonetheless, with these challenges often being case-specific, and albeit the ever expanding research base around the role of the organised civil society towards sustainability, there remains an incessant need for systematic empirical investigation. This project analyses the contribution of organised civil society towards sustainability in the socio- technical trajectories associated with complementary currency and local bartering schemes. Specifically, the study aims to describe and explain how the economic recession intrinsically affects complementary currency schemes. In doing so, this understanding postulating that grassroots niches are not separated from capitalist landscapes will also serve in addressing the underlying theme of the research: to provide an environmentalist critique of capitalist structures. With a recent sprouting in the number of civil actors who have empowered themselves out of the hardships of the economic crisis and have rendered themselves into local pioneers in complementary currencies and barter exchange networks, key research questions relate: a) to the practice-based processes by which civil society actors relate to complementary currency/ bartering schemes, and b) to the socio-psychological processes underlying the practical involvement of consumers in such grassroots networks. In dealing with these questions, the study also aims to address the issue of whether these newly emerging innovations can be adequately integrated into a theory of sustainability involving both social and environmental components (Seyfang 2001), or whether they solely relate to notions of a solidarity economy which are particularly relevant during economic downturns (cf. Moulaert and Ailenei 2005)." (