In the second of our series of guest posts on the impact of the Occupy! movement on radical politics, Anitra Nelson, co-editor of Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies, argues that the movement has created the potential for new money-free egalitarian and environmental values and relationships:
Time magazine has just announced ‘The Protester’ as 2011 Person of the Year. Is it really the start of radical international change? One hundred years ago 1911 was such a momentous year: cities fell like dominoes across China so that on New Year’s Day in 1912 Sun Yat-sen became the provisional president of a liberal republic; Mexico was entering years of internal war after Porfirio Diaz’s dictatorial reign from 1877 broke down in 1910; and, in Russia, a brief restoration of conservative order was crumbling with Bolshevik and anarchistic activities and Lenin proclaiming the end of ‘world bourgeois parliamentarianism’.
When New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered police to clear Zuccotti Park of Occupy protesters on 15 November, he called on protesters ‘to occupy the space with the power of their arguments’. Starting out in the North as a movement against corporate greed, Occupy quickly developed into demands for grassroots democracy. Whether 2011 becomes known as the turning point or not will mainly depend on whether the ‘99 per cent’ take up the gauntlet. The ten contributors to a new book, Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies, offer strong and radical responses to defenders of capitalism and the so-called ‘free world’.
Life Without Money argues that we need to replace monetary values and relationships by accounting directly in social and environmental values. The contributors — from three continents — not only argue why and how production for trade contorts and destroys humane and natural values but also offer strategies for undercutting capitalism by refusing to deal in money and set out money-free models of governance and collective sufficiency.
There are numbers of alternative communities, as well as movements (such as squatters and freegans), who are experimenting with such models. A decade ago they might have been considered marginal but their activities gain greater currency and come into sharp focus as everyone, capitalists and workers alike, fear more and worse instability on global financial markets threatening the viability of businesses, job security, house prices and home ownership, the worth of assets and superannuation savings.
The other global challenge, environmental crises — runaway carbon emissions being but the tip of the iceberg — poses a massive threat to capitalism by laying bare the simplistic and inefficient rigidity of a system that depends on growth. Growth is capitalism’s Achilles Heal. While overconsumption in the North demands that many develop less materialistic ways of living, it is simply impossible for individual entrepreneurs or national GDP to ‘degrow’ without some kind of planned economy, at which point we have only two options.
On the one hand, there are state planned economies, which are out of favour amongst the left and right alike. On the other hand, non-market forms have the distinct benefit of offering individuals and neighbourhoods economic democracy. It is precisely the importance of such democracy that lies at the heart of all the Occupy movements worldwide. Occupy politics focus on general assemblies (GAs) allowing everyone a say in decision-making. Clumsy, you say, impossible, not feasible. You’re right, under capitalism. But the economic infrastructure of a world in which we could all have a say in how we live our lives is sketched out in Life Without Money, the ‘how to’ book on occupying our world.
Building Fair and Sustainable Economies
Edited by Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman
Examines the failure of the money-based global economy and how we might live in more sustainable, equitable ways. A textbook and manifesto for change.
“The collapse of capitalism will also be an end to money as the prime regulator of society—an eventuality both hard to imagine and necessary to understand. Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman have assembled an indispensable collection for those who are bold enough to explore this dramatic prospect. Life Without Money is an essential guidebook for the great debate now unfolding and around which our hopes for a worthwhile future unfold.” – Joel Kovel, author of Enemy of Nature (2002; 2007) and Overcoming Zionism (Pluto, 2007)
“A timely contribution to an under-researched and under-reported area of economics: the theory of money and proposals for alternatives to the globalised capitalist financial system. I would recommend it to anyone interested in finding ways to develop an economy that functions without money.” – Molly Scott Cato, Reader in Green Economics, Cardiff School of Management