"It is astonishing what foolish things one can temporarily believe if one thinks too long alone, particularly in economics". John Maynard Keynes (1936, The General Theory).

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The * hypothesis

Is it possible to have a research hypothesis without a name? Well, it might not be possible, but it might be necessary...

The latest paper is available online under the title


at this link


(copy the link to your browser or click on the link at the left column of the blog)

Historical study has not been within the scope of the research project titled “Exchange networks and parallel currencies: Theoretical approaches and the case of Greece”. Of course, research participants often mention that their economic activity is not a new invention. However, it did not arrive to be imminent to consider of locating this activity within a historical framework till mapping of the schemes took place. The geographical dispersion of the schemes was such, that neither new communication technologies, nor the current economic crisis in Greece could explain the phenomenon in a satisfactory way.

Moreover, several research findings repeatedly appear without enabling any theoretical explanation that could link them together. At the same time, modern literature from all over the world is being oriented towards the study of parallel currencies, while exchange networks and free bazaars are almost inexistent for both academic and non-academic writers. Of course, it would not be wise to think that exchange networks and free bazaars are just a Greek originality. What is happening then?

The present paper is an attempt to formulate a hypothesis using research findings which for reasons we cannot explain yet, “demand” their place in time, actually in time and space altogether. We try to see how scheme members with both their discourse and action challenge our perceptions about:

a) transactions without official currency being an old-times trait, which has long been or should be abandoned as “non-economic” and inefficient.

b) people’s (in)ability to transact in economic terms without exact measuring and without strict, linear perception of time.

c) how the effort to establish a modern nation-state with a capitalist economy has been based on disdaining rural communities and their economic structures, on perceiving urban economies as having one form only (the one western European cities acquired the last 200 years), on the belief that small-scale modes of production are inefficient, and on the institutionalisation and/or commodification of traditional culture of both rural and urban areas.

d) how rural economies, especially with their non-monetary tradition, have been the dark “other”, e.g. the “exploitation realm” in mere comparison with “liberating modern monetised” economy.

e) how the schemes studied within the present research project have been visible not only because of material conditions, like the new technologies which permit diffusion of information and facilitation of transactions; but also because of people (researched and researching) adapting rapidly to an all-changing economy. The phenomena studied might be not only one more adaptation of small property production modes but also an overall adaptation of small production modes in general, to new economic conditions.

There is no name or title for this hypothesis (yet). We believe that it is too early to name it, and make the same mistake as the one probably done by those who do not “see” transactions if the latter do not look like the ones described in books. It seems that the schemes studied are the surface of an economy or economies which never ceased to exist, as both material spaces and experiences in people’s histories.

It is not about naming the schemes as modern or old, pre-capitalistic or post-capitalistic, parallel or resisting to capitalist economy; it is about viewing all this activity as coeval to the so-called capitalistic, monetary, conventional economy and as setting a different agenda for economics than what capitalist and anti-capitalist discourse can offer. The schemes which enable their members to transact without official currency challenge economics here and now, or… once more.

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