[ox-en] Response to Stefan Meretz on the social production of money
- From: Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 gmail.com>
- Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2009 17:54:36 +0700
[Converted from multipart/alternative]
Copy of the reply to
We may have different premises, but since we live in a common world, if
there is to be a political dialogue, we still have to answer each other’s
So, my reproach is not that you critique my support for a peer to peer money
infrastructure, but rather the lack of arguments about why this would be
bad, or at any rate worse than the current
meltdown-related-financial-system. It is the habit of ridiculing p2p money
movements and initiatives, without cogent arguments, that I find
Also, let me repeat that what I find utopian is that you want a moneyless
society, but that you do not give an answer of how we get there.
You say the same about me, but I have given you a strategy via the Oekonux
list. I.e. the integrated construction of new life practices in all areas of
What is absolutely clear to me is that, since currently peer to peer only
works for immaterial exchange, for for the design phase of physical
production, that we need mechanisms for physical production. Because these
cannot be the same, at least not at this stage, we need better and more
distributed financial mechanisms as well.
You mention Christian Siefkes proposal, and imply that I have ignored it.
First this is untrue, I have about a dozen blog references and dedicated a
whole wiki section on his proposals. But second, this is indeed an utopian
proposal, in the sense that it is not being tried out anywhere, and that I
seen no concrete prospects of it being tried anywhere.
By contrasts, peer to peer money is a thriving social movement, producing
many benefits in the here and now.
One of your key arguments is that peer to peer money would reproduce
capitalism, if I understand you correctly?
But that is simply not the case. Interest and fractional reserve banking,
and other aspects of the current monetary system, are designed as
scarcity-based money, that facilitate accumulation, and require infinite
growth. Peer to peer money is designed against accumulation, against
infinite growth, to keep more streams of value within communities, and to be
under the control of such communities, physical and virtual. So they
directly contribute to more autonomous social life, and where applied, do
not reproduce the accumulation of capital.
Are they sufficient to change the dynamic of the whole society, no, of
course not, but along with the other p2p infrastructures, they create areas
that are protected from its full scope, and create more room and space for
alternatives. Integrated in a full vision of distributed infrastructures
though, they play a crucial role, which is why the Hungarian revolution
wanted to adopt it.
But can such use of alternative money wither away? Why not. First of all, it
is used freely by associated producers, without coercion; and is structured
so as to prevent accumulation. Then to the degree that our society finds
other means to deal with scarce resources, through resource-based economics
or any other scheme, then the need to use for such money falls way, and
indeed, through such process, it can wither away.
I think you are conflating two things:
- Markets and capitalism
- Unequal exchange with equal exchange
Again, you can have non-capitalist markets, and capitalism is based,
structurally, on unequal exchange, in a way that a market is not
necessarily. See Braudel and Manuel De Landa on this important distinction.
Why is this distinction important?
If you want a fully ‘commonist’ society, only allowing peer to peer
dynamics, then I would answer a number of things:
- It is unprecedented in history to have just one mode, the four
intersubjecti ve modes have always co-existed, it’s only their respective
dominance that has changed
- Even if it were possible, you still have to explain how to get there,
and again, you do not seem to have any transitional plans beyond waiting for
the germ form process to play out?
Assuming then, that even a peer to peer society would have a plurality of
forms, and that there is a continuum of abundance and scarcity goods that
need differential treatment, then we can expect a mixture of non-reciprocal
communal shareholding, gift economics, markets for certain types of goods,
and even, hierarchical or central allocation of certain public goods.
There is also the issue of the human freedom to choose. What do you with
those that would like to have markets? Granted you could disallow, in a
certain type of society, unequal exchange, but to outlaw freely chosen
equal exchange? That can only exist in a society based on coercion.
So, in a society of freely associated peer producers, there will be a play
of alternatives, and peer producers, when they see better alternatives than
the use of using money to trade certain goods, will simply abandon it.
Right now, certainly, we have no choice than to accept a plurality of forms.
In the context of a really-existing capitalist society, any distributed
infrastructure, which increases the economy of freely associating producers,
is to my mind a good thing.
Remember, the real choice is not between a fully commonist society, but in
this transition period, the issue is how to make steps forward.
(this is where my correct falsity critique comes in: you are presenting us
with a false utopian choice, which does not exist for the moment)
So the real choice is, and through your attacks on distributed money
production you are implicitely, or even explicitely making it, is between
accepting the current monetary system, and its in-built unequal exchange,
and attempts to construct a better alternative, that is more in tune with
So again, why are you only accepting the state and financial-corporate
creation of money, with negative protocols, and not the social production of
money, under positive protocols? You’d have to prove me that they would
indeed be worse, from a social change point of view. Neutral is not good
enough, as in that case, we would not be worse of.
All of these being said, I do accept critique of distributed money, as they
come in very different flavours, and they may be optimal for different
things. For example, while I find social lending to a be progress, they are
still operating with a mentality based on pure private gain, which I find
limiting and objectionable. LETS may require to high thresholds for too many
people, and apparently do not scale, etc… In Argentina, the complementary
currencies were under the control of small cliques which ‘owned’ the money,
and abused it for private gain, etc…
The truth is that we do not yet know the optimal way to socially produce
money, and that we have to experimentally try various options out. But the
situation is not different about say the distributed energy grid, where many
different configurations will play out.
Those are legitimate critiques. But overall, the use of socially produced
distributed money is part and parcel of the necessary institution of more
distributed infrastructures, all playing their role.
I think that, in the final analysis, your comments come over as profoundly
nihilist. You are counterposing a non-existing alternative of full
commonism, which does not exist as yet, to condemn a really existing social
movement that institutes real and concrete alternatives, that function
demonstrably better. And you make a real and concrete choice to continue
using, the type of money that has been very instrumental in creating the
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