Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Re-Politicizing Money

One of the big arguments made about our current political-economy is that an actual break has occurred where the political and economic spaces are viewed as separate. This is an argument made by many different theorists (though of course right now I can barely remember any of their names) including E. M. Wood in her book, Democracy Against Capitalism. The idea being that what we are all guaranteed in today's democracy are formal political rights that have no direct impact on our economic standing. Wood says, "In that sense, political equality in capitalist democracy not only coexists with socio-economic inequality but leaves it fundamentally intact." (Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, P. 213) Today's democracy promises you political equality but gives you no economic guarantee - you have no economic rights. Of course there have been concerted efforts, and relative successes, in creating economic rights but in the end inequality, private property and class distinctions remand de facto and accepted without question. A country is democratic regardless of questions of economic inequality. A fairly close reading of the history of democratic ideology will highlight the uniqueness of this idea of democracy as only applying to political rights with no relation to economic rights.

I believe along with these other theorists that the very separation of politics and economics is a false separation. I don't see how they can actually exist as separate spaces. In fact if you think about it, there is no way that any of our economy can exist without political decisions - the decision to protect private property is a political not an economic decision. This is just one example. The one that I find most fascinating is the question of money.

Money has been depoliticized in many parts of the world and certainly in much of the economic philosophy the goal is to frame money as depoliticized. Yet, the construction of money is political - who gets to issue it, with what characteristics, etc.. Much like the idea of private property, money is viewed as being in a natural form. A form that is a product of the economy, which is the product of natural forces. But, I think that the rise of community currency movement and increasing discussion about the way we create money and the impacts of this creation on our political lives has the potential to re-politicize money and make it part of a relevant political discussion. I think that this could lead the re-integration of politics and economics and the rise of series discussions over what our political-economy consists of and what our choices are, which are always political.

My hope is that as research and explorations into community currencies deepen we will see the growth of political-economic research and the recognition that we have far more power as a collective, over the shape of our socio-economy and that we can redefine the system in ways that give democratic citizenship deeper meaning and the ending of the separation of political and economic rights into two separate spaces.

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