Money and Liberation

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Book: Money and Liberation. The Micropolitics of Alternative Currency Movements. Peter North. University of Minnesota Press, 2008



From the publisher:

"A firsthand view of local currencies that are providing alternatives to global capital.

Is conventional money simply a discourse? Is it merely a socially constructed unit of exchange? If money is not an actual thing, are people then free to make collective agreements to use other forms of currency that might work more effectively for them? Proponents of “better money” argue that they have created currencies that value people more than profitability, ensuring that human needs are met with reasonable costs and decent wages—and supporting local economies that emphasize local sustainability. How did proponents develop these new economies? Are their claims valid?

Grappling with these questions and more, Money and Liberation examines the experiences of groups who have tried to build a more equitable world by inventing new forms of money. Presenting in-depth profiles of the trading networks that have been constructed both historically and more recently, including Local Exchange Trading Schemes (England), Green Dollars (New Zealand), Talente (Hungary), and the barter system in Argentina, Peter North shows how the use of currency has been redefined as part of political action, revealing surprising political ambiguity and a nuanced understanding of the potential and limits on alternative currencies as a resistance practice." (


Tadit Anderson:

"Peter North is a senior research fellow and lecturer at the University of Liverpool England. His book Money and Liberation published in 2007 by the University of Minnesota Press is a serious consideration of community currencies and exchange in the context of economic and monetary reform. He frames the intent of his book as being "about groups of people who have joined together with the modest agenda of fundamentally challenging capitalism by creating and using new forms of money." He reviews the modern history of alternative monetary systems and then various initiatives from around the world. He also examines the interplay of an established discourse about econmic change happens and doesn't happen. This includes various economic and polical philosophies relative to the intent, function, and performance of alternative currencies. He treats these local initiatives as part of the ongoing discourse toward monetary and economic reform. In fact he approaches the topic in a more serious fashion than nearly all of the popular advocates of alternative monetary advocates.

He also examines community currencies more seriously than has been applied by most monetary reform advocates and by those actively criticizing financialized Capitalism.

His effort to place these initiatives in the context of a 200 year plus discourse about the democratization of economic institutions is possibly over generous, but that suggestion is probably more directed toward alternative economics advocates to take a wider and more historical view. In his final assessment of the potential for community currencies and exchanges he is clearedly reserved and favors an ongoing process of debate among utopians variously informed, Marxist economic critiques, and other institutional economists. When placed in the context of ill-informed and blunt force efforts this is a prudent analysis. What he does not include is coverage of various groups in different countries advocating for reform by way of legislation initiatives, which tend to be much more informed about related economics and the history of monetary ideas.

Though he is not extensive in his review of different alternative monetary systems he does cover several major examples and analyses their capacities and inadequacies. He refers in several ways to the differences between utopian proposals and pragmatic process. He discusses the failure of Robert Owen's economic proposals as resultng from utopian goals. However, North does not examine the successes of the cooperative movement, often described as Owenites, as a variety of the mutual aid societies that developed out of the early English labor movement. My point here is that there is a useful distinction between Owen and the cooperatives which have establish a history of commercial and cultural success. His review of the significance of the Argentinean alternative exchange as barter networks which developed into the largest yet experiment in modern alternative exchange systems. He admits, unlike the utopian advocates that the process had a number of major flaws and its use has been greatly reduced since about two years after the collapse of the Argentine Peso in 1997 to 2000. His analysis is rich in suggestions of what made this process both successful and of the factors that caused the process to be regarded as largely a transitional strategy, when the Argentine economy improved.

One aspect of this book stands out, and that is the effort and method by which North addresses these issues and efforts, He approach remains based upon their theoretical, historical, and pragmatic attributes. He does not approach this domain with an all too common ideological and dogmatic perspective.

My minor criticism of this book is that North did not take the next step to advocate an active discourse between the community currency and exchange advocates with the advocates of national monetary reform. He may be too polite to make such a direct criticism or suggestion. To extrapolate I would suggest that the advocates for the reform of national and usually privatized monetary systems, also examine how their proposed reforms will affect economic life at the local level. And then communicate those benefits to the local econocs advocates. I also suggest to the advocates of local currencies and exchanges that they explore how their intiatives relate to the national reform agenda and to the ongoing discourse about the history of economic ideas. Even so, this book represents an important contribution to the general process of monetary reform." (