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

Journal of Business Ethics 160 (1):277-292 (2019)
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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 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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