Making Real Money: Local Currency and Social Economies in the United States
Committee ChairSoule, Sarah A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLocal currencies have been founded in dozens of communities around the United States. By printing their own money that can only be used at participating local merchants or service providers, or in direct exchange with community members, advocates of local currencies try to reinvigorate local commerce, demonstrate community opposition to "big box" retailers and globalization, and support local employment. Although many local currencies have been founded, most of them have had only limited success, but even where local currencies fail to thrive, they raise important questions about the ways in which we organize institutions. This dissertation has two key concerns that emerge from those questions, the first of which is to explore the ways in which the meaning of money is reconfigured by the organizers and the users of local currencies. Second, this project seeks to explain the conditions under which local currencies operate, with the goal of building an understanding of how organizations successfully challenge the deeply embedded and institutionalized practices that surround the use of money. Local currencies are an innovative form of community economic organization that has previously gone under-studied by scholars. This project, the first to address local currencies with a large set of quantitative macro-level data as well as case-oriented archival and survey data, adds to knowledge of movement development and maintenance, and the social construction and use of money. Local currency reminds us that the systems of dollars and cents are socially constructed and that they therefore are changeable. But changing institutions that are part of our everyday life is difficult; because the use of money is so deeply embedded in routines and institutions, it's difficult to even ask questions about money: Where does money come from? Why do we trust it? And how might alternatives to money work? Local currency reminds us that money is not necessarily as "real" as we tend to think and it invites us to think about the system of institutions in which we live.