Complementary Currencies

  • Massimo Amato
  • Luca FantacciEmail author
Reference work entry


Recent decades have witnessed the proliferation of monetary instruments that differ, in many respects, from the official currency issued by the central bank and by the regulated banking system, such as local currencies, corporate barter, and mutual credit systems. Today, complementary currencies tend to appear as a bizarre exception to the rule of one single, all-purpose currency for each country (or currency area). However, in historical and comparative perspective, it is monetary plurality that prevails: different monies coexist side by side, serving different purposes, in most economies throughout most periods. The most significant and pervasive distinction in premodern economies was between internal and external money: one currency for the domestic economy and a different one for foreign trade. Only the rise of modern territorial states in the seventeenth century established the uniformity of the currency in each jurisdiction and the monopoly of coinage as a prerogative of sovereignty. In this chapter, we provide a broad overview of the various forms of complementary currencies throughout history, we analyze more recent experiments, and we review current proposals to introduce parallel currencies, before we turn to discuss how an enquiry into monetary complementarity can help shed light on the very nature of money itself.


Complementary currencies Parallel currencies Alternative currencies Clearing systems 


  1. Amato M (2018) The bitcoin or the reality of a waking dream, in Pixley J, Flam H (eds) Critical junctures in mobile capital. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 268–276Google Scholar
  2. Amato M, Fantacci L (2012) The End of Finance, Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Amato M, Fantacci L (2014) Saving the Market from Capitalism, Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Amato M, Fantacci L, Papadimitriou DB, Zezza G (2016) Going forward from B to A? Proposals for the eurozone crisis. Economies 4:18Google Scholar
  5. Blanc J (ed) (2000) Les monnaies parallèles. Unité et diversité du fait monétaire. L’Harmattan (Economiques), ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanc J (2011) Classifying “CCs”: community, complementary and local currencies’ types and generations. Int J Commun Curr Res 15(spl issue):11–16Google Scholar
  7. Blanc J (2017) Unpacking monetary complementarity and competition: a conceptual framework. Camb J Econ 41(1):239–257Google Scholar
  8. Bloch M (1954) Esquisse d’une histoire monétaire de l’Europe. Cahiers des Annales, vol 9. A. Colin, ParisGoogle Scholar
  9. Boyer-Xambeu MT, Deleplace G, Gillard L (1994) Private Money and Public Currencies: The Sixteenth Century Challenge, ME Sharpe, Armonk NYGoogle Scholar
  10. Braudel F (1979) Afterthoughts on material civilization and capitalism. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  11. Cameron R, Neal L (1989) A concise economic history of the world: from Paleolithic times to the present, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  12. City of London (2011) Capacity Trade and Credit: Emerging architectures for commerce and money. Report prepared for the City of London Corporation, ESRC and Recipco, December, City of London Economic Development, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Cœuré B (2014) Life below zero: Learning about negative interest rates, Presentation at the annual dinner of the ECB’s Money Market Contact Group, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  14. Day ACL (1954) The Future of Sterling, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  15. De Cecco M (1974) Money and empire: the international gold standard, 1890–1914, Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Einaudi L (1953) The theory of imaginary money from Charlemagne to the French revolution. In: Lane FC, Riemersma JC (eds) Enterprise and secular change: readings in economic history. George Allen and Unwin, London, pp 229–261Google Scholar
  17. Fantacci L (2005) Complementary currencies: a prospect on money from a retrospect on premodern practices. Financial Hist Rev 12(1):43–61Google Scholar
  18. Fantacci L (2008) The dual currency system of renaissance Europe. Financial Hist Rev 15(1):55–72Google Scholar
  19. Fantacci L (2013) Reforming money to exit the crisis: examples of non-capitalist monetary systems in theory and practice. In: Pixley J, Harcourt J (eds) Financial crises and the nature of capitalist money: mutual developments from the work of Geoffrey Ingham. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp 124–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fisher I (1933) Stamp scrip. Adelphi, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Guyer J (2012) Soft currencies, cash economies, new monies: past and present. Proc Natl Academy Sci 109(7):2214–2221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hayek FA (1990) Denationalisation of money: an analysis of the theory and practice of concurrent currencies, 3rd edn. Institute of Economic Affairs, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Helleiner E (2003) The making of national money. Territorial currencies in historical perspective. Cornell University Press, Ithaca/LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Ingham G, Coutts K, Konzelmann S (2016) Introduction: “cranks” and “brave heretics”: rethinking money and banking after the great financial crisis. Camb J Econ 40(5):1247–1257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kennedy M, Lietaer B, Rogers J (2012) The people money: the promise of regional currencies. Triarchy Press, Devon, UKGoogle Scholar
  26. Keynes JM (1923) Tract on Monetary Reform, The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Vol. IV, Cambridge University Press, 1971Google Scholar
  27. Keynes JM (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Vol. VII, Cambridge University Press, 1973Google Scholar
  28. Kregel I (2017) A two-tier eurozone or a euro of regions? Public Policy Brief, No. 144, September 2017Google Scholar
  29. Kuroda A (2008a) What is the complementarity among monies? An introductory note. Financial Hist Rev 15(1):7–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuroda A (2008b) Concurrent but non-integrable currency circuits: complementary relationships among monies in modern China and other regions. Financial Hist Rev 15(1):17–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Labrot J (1989) Une histoire économique et populaire du moyen age: les jetons et les méreaux. Errance, ParisGoogle Scholar
  32. Lietaer B (2001) The future of money. Century, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Maurer B (2005) Mutual life, limited: Islamic banking, alternative currencies, lateral reason. Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  34. Mauss M (1990) The gift. Routledge, London English translation of Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques, L’Année Sociologique (1923–24)Google Scholar
  35. Nakamoto S (2008) Bitcoin: A Peer-To-Peer Electronic Cash System,
  36. North P (2007) Money and liberation: the micropolitics of the alternative currency movement. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  37. Pacione M (1997) Local exchange trading systems as a response to the globalisation of capitalism. Urban Stud 34(8):1179–1199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peacock MS (2006) The moral economy of parallel currencies. Am J Econ Sociol 65(5):1059–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Peacock MS (2014) Complementary currencies: history, theory, prospects. Local Econ 29(6–7):708–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Phelan (2014) The Road Not Taken - The Hard ECU; Britain’s alternative to the euro, London School of Economics and Political ScienceGoogle Scholar
  41. Polanyi K (1957) The Economy As Instituted Process, in Polanyi K, Arensberg CM and Pearson HW (eds) Trade and Market in the Early Empires, The Free Press, Glencoe, pp 243–269Google Scholar
  42. Richey S (2007) Manufacturing trust: community currencies and the creation of social capital. Polit Behav 29(1):69–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Seyfang G (2001) Community currencies: small change for a green economy. Environ Plan A 33(6):975–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stodder J (2009) Complementary credit networks and macroeconomic stability: Switzerland’s Wirtschaftsring. J Econ Behav Organ 72:79–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Théret B (2016) Réutiliser la monnaie fiscale (avec Wojtek Kalinovski). Les Dossiers d’Alternatives Économiques 6:53–54Google Scholar
  46. Tibbett R (1997) Alternative currencies: a challenge to globalisation? New Polit Econom 2(1):127–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zelizer VA (1998) The proliferation of social currencies. In: Callon M (ed) The laws of the markets. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 58–68Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Political SciencesUniversità BocconiMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations