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How would money, if there were any, work in an anarchist society

+1 vote
Right so I'm new to a lot of anarchist ideas and I'm just trying to get my head around some key principles. I was just wandering how people would get what they needed or wanted. If I worked in a pen factory would people have to buy that pen from me or would it work on a ration system, ie a set number of pens per month. It seems to me that society would be better if we abolished money all together but with that would we also be abolishing past times such as TV or Video games. If we keep this past times available to people then do we distribute them fairly (one per person?) or do people have to trade for them?

I would very much appreciate any clarification and I apologise if I made any mistakes about anarchism. Thank you.
asked May 31, 2015 by GreatScott88mph (130 points)

5 Answers

–2 votes
that would totally depend on the actual society and all the parameters and subsistence it's based on.

However, the currency itself would have to have some sort of value outside of itself. The currency we use is totally useless without the highly authoritarian structures that print and support it, it's just papers and numbers on a computer. If american society just decided money was worthless, you couldn't use it for jack shit.
answered May 31, 2015 by anonymous
–2 votes
I think there will be a medium for exchange.  Trying to impose a system that isn't allowed to use a medium would be authoritarian, and the convenience of using a medium would be hard to do without.

In my imagined system:

A person works, making pens if you like.  They get credit for working. That credit exists in a computer, accessible through a secure card or encrypted app or something. Later, they want a sandwich.  They get the sandwich, and the credit is deleted from the computer.

The credit itself does not transfer. It represented an imbalance between that one person's contribution and consumption. When the imbalance is corrected by consuming the sandwich, the credit no longer has a function. It is annihilated.  It doesn't accumulate, and it doesn't function as capital.  At most, a record of what the credit was spent on gets created, so communities can plan how many sandwiches (or antibiotics, or kilowatts of power, or etc.) to make in the future.

The person who worked to make the sandwich will get their own credit for that work, which they can spend on a pen or a haircut or a pint or anything.

 Except in special situations like community contribution to a road or some other public good, credits are nontransferable.  They are money, but they are not capital or leverage over others.
answered May 31, 2015 by k.lin (460 points)

in response to k.lin's last comment...

you can characterize it however you wish.

i don't "need" much (that currently exists within the monetary system) at all outside of food and shelter. but to the extent i desire other things, i don't want planning, tracking, and counting of it, or a "system" that tries to account for everything.

as i live my life today, i involve money very little in it, and the more i move my daily life out of the realm of money, the more i feel happy, open, and creative.

edited to add parenthesis to the second sentence.


"would it be safe to say you have communist leanings?"

We get to such terms, and they need clarification. If you mean what totalitarians called their self-serving abuse of the poor, of course I'm not.  What do you mean by communist?

I might fit a dictionary definition of a socialist, maybe.  I feel that everyone's (literally, every living person's) well-being is more important than anyone's luxury or indolence. I feel that effort toward a valuable outcome is worthy of reward. I also feel it's acceptable to ask for justification from someone who wants to consume excessively without producing.  Some justifications are totally legit, some are not.  Which are which can be standardized by asking the community for input in creating standards.

Edit: Yes I do have economist leanings.  I think that what gets produced and why, what gets consumed and by whom, and how we learn from and reiterate that process, is simply fascinating.  It's our version of the bee's waggle dance, of mycelium fruiting or going dormant.  It defines (and yes, limits) humanity far more precisely than our language or our deities.  Economy is an ugly, clinical word for a process that can be beautiful, or brutal, or compassionate, or inspiring, or anything else humans can be.  It is collaborative art.  Not my fault that it's dominated by the ghoulish corpses of kings and magnates.

i don't look at life through a lens of "production" and "consumption". that sounds like the language (and viewpoint) of governments, corporations, banks, and stock markets.

i have certain physical needs to stay alive. and i have desires which i may or may not fulfill depending on what i do, the people, land, and physical surroundings i encounter, and how i interact with them.
k.lin: i appreciate you explaining your position.  i do not share it.

i have no issue with "social" relationships between individuals. i do have an issue with an overarching "society", especially one which is "responsible" for the well-being of all. (and it appears your "all" refers only to humans, another issue i have with your position).
Just to clarify, kiln, i never talked about banning mediums of exchange, i just said that IF, and only IF, an anarchist society used a currency, it would have to be based on some object/jewelry/something that had an appeal within itself. If it didn't then currency would encounter the same problem as industrial nations do with inflation: there's too much of it because nobody wants it.

rather than being a communist or socialist, i think the main difference between you (PITIFUL MORTAL LOL) and the 3 of us  is we consider ourselves to be what i read in an anarchist book recently forgot which one "extreme lifestyle anarchists" or more commonly known as anti-political anarchists, that see trying to plan out a society to be a futile activity, to be taking on a role similar to an intellectual funcionary in the government.
0 votes
Bakunin often spoke of "bank of exchanges" that would negotiate prices with worker co ops. Labor vouchers would act as a means to exchange in communal markets, but be destroyed once redeemed.
answered Jun 1, 2015 by Militant (400 points)
did they resemble currency exchanges like the ones in the airport? just curious. I don't really understand much about vouchers except that they're seen as a way to send kids to private school cheaper and there's that expression "will you vough for me"?
The vouchers would represent the value of the products exchanged.
For example,

One workers coop makes shoes. They take these shoes to the bank of exchange. The workers and BoE negotiate the value of the products. In return, the BoE issues vouchers to be used at any communal market. One these vouchers are used in the market, they are destroyed.

The vouchers represent your labor.

as long as we have a voucher....


hahaha, coming together in the hatred of lies...brilliant
+2 votes
it's hard for me to imagine a money/credit system without a central authority of some kind to regulate value.

easier to see a variety of forms of exchange, including perhaps gifting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy) and simple trade and sharing on individual and group levels.

the example you give assumes the continued existence of factories and what i would call alienated labor and mass production (why make a pen if you don't already know someone who wants one?), and so doesn't fit into my vision of an anarchist context.

but there are plenty of people who have factory production in their vision of a stateless, non-capitalist future; i just can't speak for them. i think they want meetings and vouchers and credit... did someone already mention parecon?
answered Aug 9, 2015 by dot (50,920 points)
0 votes
It seems likely that any actually existing anarchy will involve a variety of economic practices, and that those practices will necessarily be different, and sometimes very different, as a result of the wide range of changes involved in transforming authoritarian relations. So, for example, on the question of planning production, it might well be that instead of having a pen factory, we would have more flexible sorts of productive apparatus. Maybe our pens will be made by 3D printers, using recycled plastic, at a facility that simply makes the next thing needed, rather than specializing. Or maybe our writing implements adapt to the overall changes in the community. Among those changes will undoubtedly be some changes in the way we think about appropriating raw materials, so all the changes in thoughts about "property" will also be factors. Lots of things that "make sense" under capitalist property and exchange conventions will look very different to us in anything like anarchy.

Money--or a circulating medium of some sort, since "money" is a very loaded term for lots of folks--is one of those things that we will undoubtedly have to rethink substantially. If some sort of explicit exchange remains part of the economic norms of a given locality, then some sort of marker will be required. Shared accounting systems are also a possibility, although currency may be easier to keep decentralized. In any case, the principle ought probably to be "the best tool for the job," without any very general assumptions about what "the job" of exchange is. After all, lots of local, daily exchange might be handled with an almost purely conventional circulating medium, while large-scale transactions probably demand a somewhat "harder" currency, particularly when those involved are not also involved in that network of routine, daily exchanges. So maybe you have wooden nickels and IOUs circulating alongside precious metals and secured credit currency. Hopefully, one of the first stages of reorganizing our economic life is breaking down the monolithic "economy," so that we can tackled questions with different stakes in different, individually appropriate ways. We tend to act as if we have to provide for general needs and individual preferences by the same system, probably because all of that has been captured under current circumstances by the same forces. But, moving forward, we should have the option of diversifying our practices to more naturally harmonize with our actual goals (rather than conforming to the demands of this or that system.) So, for example, we might be communists when it comes to supplying ourselves with a shared, stable basis for individual pursuits that might involve all sorts of supplementary competition, inequality, play, trial and error, and general tomfoolery. We could have boring, stable currencies where they were necessary, and fluctuating, fun currencies where the social costs of anyone's "failure in the market" aren't going to threaten to throw the whole network in some hierarchical or authoritarian direction. And people who are offended by distinctions between individuals wouldn't have to play.
answered Aug 12, 2015 by humanispherian (430 points)