Cooperation, not competition: exploring the ontologies of efficiency of an alternative currency consultancy firm in the Netherlands
Coco Kanters (Leiden University)
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork with a Dutch currency consultancy firm and its partners, this paper explores the notion of 'efficiency' at the intersection of social regulation and alternative economies.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores how efficiency-a seemingly universal economic narrative-is made portable into the realm of an 'alternative economy' via the efforts of Qoin, an alternative currency consultancy firm in the Netherlands. Though often analysed as grassroots alternatives to global financial practice, alternative currencies in North-West Europe are by and large professionally designed and instituted via cross-sectoral partnerships of private enterprises, public sector organisations, and local government branches. For the 'currency consultants' aspiring to re-invent money in European cities, corporate standards, action, and agency are the backbone whereupon ideals, expectations, and visions of society are articulated. I choose to focus specifically on efficiency because it is a central concept in neoliberal capitalism; yet the notion itself is rarely critically examined in either economic anthropology or the anthropology of corporations. The ethnography of Qoins 'currency model' provides an instance of how the work of economic rebellion becomes entwined with, yet not necessarily co-opted by, logics of market efficiency. The alternative currency is actively promoted to policy-makers as a tool of social regulation. It aims to create 'efficient communities' by  creating an institutional structure for cross-sectoral collaboration and  stipulating particular desired behaviour from citizens. What emerges is a different ontology of efficiency: rather than being predicated on self-responsibilising individuals and values of competition, the social efficiency Qoin aims for means cooperation on various levels.Download the full paper
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