Part III: Developing the Money Commons

Money is central to capitalism and to our many sustainability crises. This book nuances this, by now, commonplace knowledge by arguing that it is not money per se but its architecture – its internal design and governance structures – that is at the root of our variegated civilisational challenges. Yet, history shows, money’s internal architecture can take many forms and, with them, be conducive to different social and economic dynamics. Building on this insight, monetary entrepreneurs – grassroots groups, municipalities and radical crypto-entrepreneurs – are reclaiming, reorganising and remaking money to advance a sustainable future.

Approaching money as a sociotechnical arrangement with infrastructural effects, the book examines past and present monetary initiatives to unfold their architecture and trace the connection between monetary design and the behaviour of the money so designed. It finds three principles along which money is designed and organised – the market, the state and the commons – each shaped by a distinct imaginary of money. It also finds that each organising principle incites particular individual relations towards the collective, resulting in different community dynamics. This has implications for markets’ role in the economy and the health of our democracies. The book concludes that in remaking money, monetary entrepreneurs are opening up new horizons to build new civilisational forms.

Real utopias, as American sociologist Erik O. Wright calls ideals that are grounded in practical experiments of humanity, build on a combination of idealism and realism, of vision and implementation, of political imagination and action orientation. Real utopias feed on the tension between dreams and practice.1 As we have seen in the second part of the book, in money matters, the tension between the utopia carved out by a new monetary arrangement and the practice of enacting it centres around two main questions: what are the rules governing money and who gets to decide those rules – or, more broadly, how does money work, and how is it made to work; the architectural design and the governance institutions of the particular money. As we have also seen through the various complementary monies unpacked thus far, this tension is resolved differently depending on the cultural, political and economic arrangements in which the actors coordinating the experiments embed the new monies. The architecture of a specific money, that is, hinges on the relational restraints of its designers and managers. Finally, and key to the implementation of any monetary utopia, the shape money takes shapes in turn dynamics in the community that uses it. The form and reason money took – whether a ‘sell it forward’, ‘give it forward’, ‘tax it forward’ or ‘hold it forward’ – made a difference on how the individual related to that money and thus shaped the social reality where individuals lived and acted. In a nutshell, as money is constituted, it constitutes community. As it is shaped, it shapes the social fabric. As it is embedded in socioeconomic relations, it embeds the economy into society.

The third part of the book further develops that line of argument. Chapters 7 and 8 each unfold three complementary monies sharing a similar real utopia – the advancement of more inclusive societies through the implementation of a universal basic income, in Chapter 7; the promotion of economies based on a relation of care towards nature, in Chapter 8. Each of the three monies unfolded in each of those two chapters follows a distinct principle for organising the monetary arrangement – community democracy, central authority, self-regulating market. In the money–society co-constitutive manner we have now learnt to discern, the principle organising the particular money comes to similarly organise the community of users of that money. What social dynamics eventually evolve inhere in what socioeconomic relations are organised within money – with direct implications, we will see, for the nature of the markets that come to dominate and the depth of the democracy that comes to be exercised. In other words, the effective realisation of the utopias intended with the monetary arrangement ultimately depends on the specific articulation of the monetary configurations. The reclaimed, reimagined and reorganised money works as it is made to work. Chapter 9 translates such lessons into a set of guidances for organising monies that have the potential to advance more inclusive and sustainable societies.

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