Why Matrifocal Societies Use Dual Currencies

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  • Article: The Monetary Blindspot. Bernard Lietaer

URL = http://www.scribd.com/doc/34659324/The-Monetary-Blind-Spot-by-Bernard-Lietaer

Extract from chapter 2 of a book forthcoming with McMillan, edited by Simon Mouatt and Carl Adams with working title “Societal Change and Monetary Innovations"

The scribd download has an nice graphic contrasting male yang currency organisation and values with yin matrifocal ones.


Bernard Lietaer:

"All patriarchal societies in history have had the tendency to impose a monopoly of a single currency, hierarchically issued, naturally scarce or artificially kept scarce, and with positive interest rates. This was for instance the case in Sumer and Babylon, in Greece and Rome, and from the Renaissance onwards in Western societies all the way to today. The form of these currencies has varied widely, ranging from standardized commodities, precious metals, paper or electronic bits. But what they all have in common is that governments accepted only that specific currency for payment of taxes, that this currency could be stored and accumulated, and that borrowing such currencies implied payment of interest.

In contrast, matrifocal societies have tended to use a dual currency system: one currency (typically identical to the surrounding patriarchal societies) for trading long distance with people one doesn’t know; and a second type of currency for exchanges within one’s own local community. This second type of currency, with Yin characteristics, was usually created locally (often by the users themselves); was issued in sufficiency; and didn’t have interest. In the most sophisticated cases, this currency even had a demurrage fee - a negative interest equivalent to a parking fee on money -, which would discourage its accumulation. In short, it would be used as a pure medium of exchange, not as a store of value. This was the case, for instance, with the corn-backed currencies that lasted for well over a millennium in Dynastic Egypt that was one of the secrets of the wealth of that ancient society (Preisigke, 1910) (Lietaer, 2000) .

Notice that we are talking about “matrifocal” societies, not matriarchal ones, because there is no evidence that genuine matriarchal societies have actually existed in reality. In a purely matriarchal society, the only role for a male would be procreation. The Amazons are an example of such a society, but they have only existed in the imagination of the Greeks, as no historical or archeological evidence for such an Amazon society has ever shown up. In contrast, matrifocal societies, defined as those where feminine values are honored, while less frequent than patriarchal ones, have existed in various parts of the world. The easiest way to detect them is to look at their vision of the divine.

In a matrifocal society, it is a goddess or goddesses that play the most important roles, such as being a “Co-Creator” or a “Savior”. In comparison, in patriarchal societies it is invariably a male god that plays this role; and in monotheistic religions a single male God plays even all the divine roles. Examples of matrifocal societies include Dynastic Egypt (where Isis was the Savior), or the Central Middle Ages in Western Europe (roughly from the 10th to the 13th century, the period of Courtly Love, also called the Age of Cathedrals which were most frequently dedicated to a Lady). In both these historical societies, a dual currency system prevailed. Detailed evidence for these claims is provided elsewhere (Lietaer, 2000)." (http://www.scribd.com/doc/34659324/The-Monetary-Blind-Spot-by-Bernard-Lietaer)