Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Local In Alternative Currencies

My biggest concern since my foray into the world of alternative/complementary currencies is the almost constant focus on a particular concept of the "local". The type of local that these ideas are operating out of is a local that is defined by a physical geography - local with defined space and boundaries (when using the term local I am operating based on this type of definition unless otherwise stated). This is a physically bounded and situated concept of local and does not seem to pay attention to broader concepts of local - virtual networks, Diaspora communities, personal and business networks and more.

The emphasis on this type of local is based on the belief that small, locally based economies are more stable and resilient when they are not dependent or financially integrated into the global economy. This is a thinking of the global and local within a dichotomous framework - seeing the global as something separate from the local and therefore something to separate from or become distinct from. What is true is that globalization operates differently in every space and is geographically and historically constituted and therefore different facets and experiences of globalization are produced in every local economy.

The understanding that the local currency movement operates from assumes that globalization "impacts" local communities and is largely a-historical and is therefore something that is imposed upon us and must therefore be fought against. This is like talking about our different organs from the perspective of the "impact" that the human body as a whole has on a particular organ. This, as we know, is folly and is not the most constructive way to handle an issue that is "localized" - if my lungs are giving me problems I don't look at the entire body and say that we need to remove the lungs from the "impact" of the body. The two can not operate separate from each other. Globalization is local as much as it is global - it takes the local to produce the global. We, the people, are the ones that have created and continue to create globalization and we can create it in any and all forms that we may desire. It is not something that is predestined and designed - it is not something that operates separate from us.

The logic that is used to go from a critique of the monetary system to a critique of globalization is problematic to me. I, personally, see nothing wrong with globalization - especially the type of globalization that is rooted in interconnectedness and flows of information and goods across "physical" boundaries (I also think that globalization is an experience that is part of human existence - the sharing of ideas, goods, languages, etc) . I do not believe that we can, nor need to, end "globalization". Ultimately globalization is made up of many, in fact an infinite amount of "local economies". What is problematic is that the blood (money) that is pumping through these economies is somewhat toxic - as if the economy has drunk too much alcohol and is self-destructive.

Globalization is not the problem, nor is the loss of the "local". Rather the problem is the incentives and values that are rewarded and promoted within the current economic system which in great part are guided and driven by the way we create and construct our current monetary system. The alternative currency movement will find greater success in finding ways to integrate and relate to the global economy rather then viewing itself as in "opposition" to or in a process of "re-localization" as something that is against the global economy.


Mark Herpel said...

I see where you are headed but I'm not sure I agree. Perhaps it's more accurate to say the Internet economy is more of a global village then my local community. Whey you shop at a large chain store and spend a dollar, .82 cents of each dollar leaves your area for the company's headquarters and bank which could be in another city or country. That money is never returned and spent with another local business. A geographic boundary for local money keeps those dollars within that boundary to be re spent with another business. The dollar spent locally recirculates to be spent again and again. The dollar spent at Wal-Mart, leaves the area never to be seen again, this suck available cash assets out of a community.

Saul said...

I guess what I am trying to get at is the fact that the money leaves the local economy is more a function of the monetary system (and the particular debt money that sends all of the money back to the original bankers and this is true even for the large corporation) then a function of "globalization".
My goal is (and I will put a post up about this) to advocate alternative currencies that are not bounded by a physical concept of local but more global and virtual networks of locality.