The Rise of Alternative Currencies in Post-Capitalism

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Watch Boyd Cohen’s video abstract:


During this decade we have witnessed the introduction or scaling of several forms of alternative currencies. The Alternative Currency Database includes more than 300 local alternative paper currencies. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin represent non-government backed digital currencies that have grown substantially through the underlying blockchain technology. Timebanking is another form of alternative currency where more than four million hours of time have been exchanged for future time from network members around the globe.

I believe we are on the cusp of a transformation in how value is captured and exchanged in society…. [Read More]

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4 Responses to The Rise of Alternative Currencies in Post-Capitalism

  1. Vili Lehdonvirta November 24, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    Hello!

    You can find my sort-of response here:

    https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/the-blockchain-paradox-why-distributed-ledger-technologies-may-do-little-to-transform-the-economy/

    Not created in response to this essay specifically, but in response to the discourse on blockchain’s transformative potential in general. Any comments most welcome.

    All the best,
    Vili

  2. Boyd Cohen December 12, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanks Vili. There are many unknowns about the blockchain and whether it will achieve the potential many insiders believe it will. You will note in the essay, the role of blockchain in alternative currencies and postcapitalism is not key to my arguments, however. I am optimistic that blockchain type technology can contribute to an altered economic landscape that could result in more distributed value creation and capture. Time will tell!

  3. Hi,

    First of all, we want to congratulate you on tackling this very important topic that has received little attention in our field so far. We were extremely pleased to read a concise article setting such an exciting agenda for future studies!

    Doing research on cryptocurrencies and local & complementary currencies (LCC) ourselves, we have also noticed interesting parallels between both movements. For instance, while both cryptocurrencies and LCC started as citizens’ initiatives, they also differ in several important respects. First, the two originate from radically different social movements with partly incompatible agendas (i.e. the so-called “cypherpunks” for cryptocurrencies vs. anti-globalization activists for local currencies), they promote radically different values (e.g. protecting individuals’ privacy vs. protecting local businesses), and they rely on radically different technologies (e.g. decentralized cryptographic hashing at the global level vs. centralized bookkeeping at the community level).

    Second, the way they are embedded in the economy and their conception of the individual are extremely different. LCCs favor a local, circular economy within a specific territory. Although some of them use dematerialized forms of payment, they denounce the loss of human contact that accompanies globalization and the virtualization of relationships that ensues. In sharp contrast, cryptocurrency advocates often praise a form of globalization nurtured by technological disruption (Wang & Vergne, 2017).

    Third, with cryptocurrencies, there are in fact incentives to accumulate the currency, which makes them not so “weak” — to re-use the paper’s wording. In several respects, cryptocurrencies epitomize free market capitalism on a large scale by ignoring national borders and at times regulatory constraints, and by promoting open competitive arenas with few barriers to entry. So the idea that they offer “an alternative to market-based capitalism” is certainly not the whole story. Rather, cryptocurrencies have the ability to consolidate the originally heterogeneous, segregated national capitalist markets. By contrast, LCCs supplement the national market at a local level. It would be reasonable to say that while cryptocurrencies enhance market efficiency through technology, LCCs seek to increase market stability through social means (Dodd, 2016). Finally, while it is indisputably true that cryptocurrencies are not “backed by nation states”, it is much less clear whether it is also the case for local currencies, given that they are typically pegged 1-to-1 to national fiat currencies.

    Your essay provides a great starting point to surveying the “alternative currencies” landscape. We hope that scholars will engage in a lot of healthy discussions around this new research agenda, which will certainly occupy a central spot in organization & management journals going forward.

    Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Ying-Ying Hsieh and Jean-Philippe Vergne

    Ivey Business School at Western University (London, Canada)

    References

    Wang S, Vergne JP. 2017. Buzz factor or innovation potential: What explains cryptocurrencies’ returns? PLoS ONE, 12(1): e0169556. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169556
    Dodd, N. 2016. The social life of money. Princeton University Press.

  4. Boyd Cohen January 20, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    Diane et al.
    Wow what a great, thoughtful and interesting response to the essay. It is such a pleasure to discover that I am not alone as a management researcher in exploring the potential for alternative currencies! This is also feeding into a new book I am working on about post capitalist entrepreneurship.

    It is clear you and your team are developing some deep insights about alternative currencies and I would be happy to exchange more offline regarding our mutual interests and some of the points you raise. I do not disagree with any of them of course. It is worthy to note, I think, that in the essay I did differentiate crypto from other forms b-c they are not as weak:

    “Bitcoin is not as weak of a currency as the others described in this essay as it is possible for an individual or group of individuals to accumulate bitcoins or even engage in currency speculation. The Bitcoin protocol has established that there will never be more than 21 million total bitcoins in circulation. The fact that there is a maximum limit could eventually incent investors and speculators to hoard bitcoins in the hopes that hoarding bitcoins could lead to a shortage and drive up their value.”

    I do believe it is possible that crypto currencies could be used for similar reasons to local currencies and in fact we are about to start seeing some experiments in this arena. For example Barcelona is going to conduct a basic income experiment where some of the payments will likely come in the form of a digital local currency.

    Interesting times for sure. Thank you again for your insightful contribution to this conversation!

    Boyd

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