Community currencies as laboratories of institutional learning: emergence of governance through the mediation of social value


This paper is motivated by a long-standing curiosity about the role of scale in explanatory theories of socio-economic action. Introducing scale as an analytical variable implies the coexistence of individuals alongside institutions. We make the case that economic activity becomes more sustainable when it is ‘colonized’ by ‘social value’ whereby market activity is complemented with community and democratic values, by which we mean the opposite of the commodification of e.g. social networks analytics. We take the Sardex mutual credit system as an empirical context from which to begin exploring the extent to which such community-based economic practices offer a democratic and social alternative to, a questionable substitute for, or a functional supplement to the capitalist market, the welfare state, and public enterprises administered by state bureaucracies. We broach critically the emergence of institutional collective structures from the perspective of social constructivism, post- anarchist theory, economic anthropology, and post-capitalist studies of economic action. In particular, we focus on how Graeber’s ideas on the history of debt apply to these points. We propose a recursive constructive framework for socio-economic action whereby money as a social construction is itself a medium of economic construction and, as such, becomes an important lever subject to “design” inputs by socio-economic stakeholders engaged in the development of an inclusive and participatory governance process of institution construction

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