A contribution by Franz Nahrada in the context of the Demonetization mailing list:
“We all have been attracted by a mission statement that is claiming that demonetization is both necessary and feasible. But what does this “feasibility” mean to each of us? Certainly quite different things.
The idea to call for “demonetization” and the call for this mailing list brings together a very broad range of perspectives, theoretical traditions and social activists. – So how can we build on our common understanding of the problematique of money relations and the logic of exchange of equivalents and strengthen synergies while respecting a big bag of cultural, theoretical and strategic differences and making controversies fruitful?
Maybe, at this very opening point where we consider the purpose of this mailing list and demonetization in general, a little metaphor could help.
What comes to my mind is the image of a “playing field”. “Demonetization” can be conceived or thought of as such a field, where different perspectives can play together and create patterns of understanding and change, as well as really practical synergies and a team effort, as long as certain rules are respected.
Lets put it that way: we share a vague assumption that the money economy, the capitalist and inherently patriarchal and racist mode of production, can and should be transformed not only from one point but from a variety of starting points, on a variety of levels, with a variety of actors and vectors. We might be focusing on local levels or global collaboration, on gift-driven or on coordination-driven approaches, we might work with civil society, political or entrepreneurial paradigms, based on class based schemes or on practical utopian visions or old traditions, yet we are aware that there are many people and currents in the field of change, trying out different concepts, putting different things before each other, yet giving all of us valuable experience.
To this aim, let me propose some helpful assumptions for a demonetization discourse that is both “on target”, respects diversity in our approaches and strengthens synergies by asking precise questions and making clear statements.
1. Demonetization is of utmost importance for the whole world ultimately, yet I am convinced that it can be done on certain levels / scales of societal production more easily than on others – with a strong personal tendency to favor the local scale.
2. Generally spoken, demonetization is only possible if people become conscious of the process of their (re)production – be it in part or be it in in totality. This is not an easy thing… she or he who says goodbye to money also says good bye to a certain kind of convenience and indifference. Money relations are relations of abstract equality, where individuality doesn’t matter. (The German “gleich-gültig” both expresses the equality of exchange and the indifference of a human relation). Many people like this convenience, and I think its necessary to say that we dont like it. It comes at a high price, money taking over social relations before we know it. So demonetisation is the process of (re-)transforming social relations into acts of concsious creations. This is nothing we can expect to come by itself, its a long process and one assumption that holds our discourse together it begins at different points, yet identifyable points.
3. A very simple way to frame demonetisation is to suggest that foremost, “islands of demonetization” have to be defined, islands, where the money relation is replaced by a cooperative circularity; a circularity that feeds energy back into every single part of the chain; a kind of “social contract” between members of a social network, that in most cases will first circumscribe itself by means of “inside/outside”- relations, and then gradually build syntheses to other social networks. We have heard expressions like “tribe” or “phyle” to describe one way this can happen, other ways are more favorizing temporary zones, that foster individual freedom and yet allow new social protocols to emerge. In some cases there is an expected leap in productivity that makes it possible to “give” to the outside world; definitely in the case of immaterial commons the boundaries are much less important, but even in material cycles the “exchange” with the outside world might be a general aspect of benefit to society at large.
4. The word “exchange” has a general and a special meaning, one one side its the exchange of equivalents, the latin do ut des, and on the other side it is the general fact that some kind of mutuality is at the bottomline of every social relation. As soon as we know to differentiate, the word will not do harm to us.
We know that a cooperative circularity is not to be mixed up with “equivalent” exchange relations, its scale is determined by the direct focus on the needs and necessities of members of a given social network, a conscious division of labour, and a dynamic process of planning by means of dialogue. One way to resolve this would be to differentiate clearly between “exchange” – “I give to you because you give to me” – and “metabolism” – “I give to you so that you can enfold better your productive potentials or simply because I want to enfold my productive potentials better”. Social metabolism is an eternal condition of society, equivalent exchange is a specific social form of such metabolism, which necessarily favors those who are in favor already and leads to catastrophic distortion and disparities.
5. The productive potential of such social networks and cooperatives depends also on the way they deal with the existing forms of wealth in terms of products and means of production. We are supposedly targeting “germ forms” that are embedded in a larger society dominated by the capitalist mode of production. Even if we start to produce ourselves, we might have need for goods that are available only for money. In many cases, this simply means the necessity to accumulate money as “foreign exchange” in order to be able to acquire means of production and products on the market – whilst constantly looking for alternatives to expand our cooperative cycles.
6. There is a dramatic new factor that helps us to change the picture quickly. A growing number of industrial products embody “productive intelligence” (see Toffler, third wave). The potential of cooperative self-providing can grow very fast and the acquisition of tools rather than means of consumtion is a growing option even at the smallest scale.
Of course this is exact the reason why conventional economical practise has turned into direct sabotage of such qualities. We witness a process of marketing and product design that imlplies a strategic imperative: that technologies are deformed increasingly by the economy to prevent self-employment, self-determined labour proactively. Some authors who observe technology development cannot help but suppose there is a “general prevention” against any kind of autonomy built in in modern technology. They are not only taking our land, they are also eroding our productive potential. The terminator genes are built in not only in the seeds from agroindustries, in a metaphorical sense every computer and every car is built in this way for immediate or imminent obsolesence. This is pure waste that reaches dimensions of gross national products. And of course the productive capabilities of modularize, connect, link and swap elements of interoperable technology are almost zero. The cheaper the stuff is, the less .
7. Nevertheless and in a sharp contradiction to this, activating and even subsidising self-employment (“Eigenarbeit”) is an increasingly attractive way of generating revenues, of making money – take examples such as the self-service petrol station or the self-service furniture shop. These potentials of self-providing are enhanced by community building between customers of a firm, which is the reason why even dominant economic actors time and again foster such community building. Different capitals move with different velocities in this respect. Some capitals even use the potential of communities also as a weapon against monopolies.
8. What is new in strategies related to demonetization is to take community building in our hands, by conscious action, as a strategic tool. To tie into strategies of capital to build communities and not necessarily subvert them, but in the contrary bring them far beyond the point that was originally intended. To increase the leading and designing roles of communities in regard to capital, with the threat to react with retreat if capital seeks control of communities. To favor those that explicitely loosen their grip on “intellectual capital” or other things that are essentially commons, to reward them, to credit them.
9. To say it clearly, we always have to remind ourselves of the strategic aspect of any intervention: What is the interest of capital to leave us alone or to promote a specific kind of social interaction actively? So processes of demonetization are not simply processes of delinking, but consist of taking advantage of certain opportunities to construct stable and permanent cooperative circularities in the context of a mode of production that is still defined and dominated by the capital relation. Those are opportunities that must be stabilized practically, as germ forms (“Keimformen”) of demonetized social relations – in doing this, we have to keep in mind those fractions of capital and its political agency, that want to cooperate synergetically.
10. So it would be absolutely not enough to refrain from talking about money. We must talk about the innumerable variants of interplay of a possible nonmonetary world, its solidarity economical procedures, its common resources and infrastructures, with the currently, aggressively dominating monetary system, with its economical and political actors, and where their interests might help us to survive and grow.
11. That said, of course we will also have to look into the nature of cooperative cycles themselves, revive old knowledge and findings and contribute new forms.
12. That brings me back to the playing field: some will be in the center where nonmonetary practises prevail, some will be at the edges where they colide or coexist with monetary ones, some will be at the front where they can tackle with innovations whilst others still create the base in the back and maintain structures. Lets not take that picture too serious, but lets start the game.”