Money and the Commons: An Investigation of Complementary Currencies and Their Ethical Implications

Abstract

The commons is a concept increasingly used with the promise of creating new collective wealth. In the aftermath of the economic and financial crises, finance and money have been criticized and redesigned to serve the collective interest. In this article, we analyze three types of complementary currency (CC) systems: community currencies, inter-enterprise currencies, and cryptocurrencies. We investigate whether these systems can be considered as commons. To address this question, we use two main theoretical frameworks that are usually separate: the “new commons” in organization studies and the “common good” in business ethics. Our findings show that these monetary systems and organizations may be considered as commons under the “common good” framework since they promote the common interest by creating new communities. Nevertheless, according to the “new commons” framework, only systems relying on collective action and self-management can be said to form commons. This allows us to suggest two new categories of commons: the “social commons,” which fit into both the “new commons” and the “common good” frameworks, and the “commercial commons,” which fit the “common good” but not the “new commons” framework. This research advances a new conceptualization of the commons and of the ethical implications of CCs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These numbers were retrieved on April 16th, 2018 on the Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations website: https://coinmarketcap.com/all/views/all/.

  2. 2.

    Information retrieved on October 15th, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/09/initial-coin-offerings-surpass-early-stage-venture-capital-funding.html.

  3. 3.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for raising some of these issues.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Ester Barinaga, Tina Dacin, Tom Dedeurwaerere, Sandrine Frémeaux, Georgina Gomez, Helen Haugh, Marc Labie, Frédéric Louault, Hugues Pirotte, Jean-Michel Servet, Alejo Sison, Ariane Szafarz, Annabel Vanroose and Monika Winn for the comments they provided for improving this article. Some funding for the article preparation was provided by the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation under a donation from Goldcorp Inc.

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Meyer, C., Hudon, M. Money and the Commons: An Investigation of Complementary Currencies and Their Ethical Implications. J Bus Ethics 160, 277–292 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3923-1

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Keywords

  • Common good
  • Commons
  • Complementary currencies
  • Community currencies
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Ethics in finance