There is a widespread consensus within social and sustainability science that many of the obstacles to sustainable development derive from the structure of the global economy. Analyses differ, however, regarding how sustainability problems are identified and how they may be alleviated. Mainstream economists tend to understand unsustainability in terms of market failures and lack of development. Heterodox economists generally refer to incentives inherent in globalized capitalism. Across the spectrum of analyses, there is a common assumption that greater sustainability requires reforms and regulations pertaining to the organization of market exchange. Rarely, however, is the phenomenon of money itself subjected to critical scrutiny. Whether mainstream or heterodox, economists tend to take conventional money for granted as a self-evident foundation for the organization of human exchange.

The central aim of this project is to show that the design of conventional money is not as self-evident as is generally assumed. Empirically, it will draw on two fields of research on alternative ways of organizing human economies. First, the field of economic anthropology has documented a great diversity of economic arrangements and money forms in different cultural contexts and historical periods (e.g., Hart 2000; Carrier 2005; Hann and Hart 2011). Second, the study of community currency experiments in the modern world has investigated and encouraged the emergence of complementary economies alongside regular markets (e.g., Dobson 1993; Lietaer 2001; North 2007, 2010; Lietaer and Dunne 2013). Both these fields permit us to “defamiliarize” or relativize the kind of money to which most modern people are accustomed and to imagine alternative ways of designing money.

Recent publications

Berman, Evan,  Gonzalez, Lauro,  Diniz, Eduardo H., and  Alves, Mário Aquino.  2023. “Public Management Frontiers in Guaranteed Income Programs: Advancing Implementation.” Public Administration Review  1–11.

Diniz, Eduardo. 2023 “The journey from community bank to solidarity fintech through digital social currency”, in “Responsible Finance & Accounting: Performance and Profit for Better Business, Society, and Planet” (Ed. Routledge-CoBS), published in March/2023.

Hornborg, A., Paulsson, A., Spinelli, G. et al. Call for papers: “Special Purpose Money for Sustainability”. Sustain Sci 17, 1–3 (2022).