Incorporating currencies, producing citizens: the business and politics of a complementary currency consultancy firm in the Netherlands
Coco Kanters (Leiden University)
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork with a Dutch complementary currency consultancy firm and its partners, this paper details the prevalence and centrality of corporate standards, action, and agency in regulating economic life and the way local citizenship agendas are produced.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the corporate effort to put forward a particular citizenship agenda via the institution of a digital complementary currency (CC) in the Netherlands. Though often analysed as grassroots alternatives to global financial practice, in North-West Europe such alternative monies are by and large professionally designed and instituted via cross-sectoral partnerships of private enterprises, public sector organisations, and local government branches. Based on my fieldwork with Dutch complementary currency consultancy firm 'Qoin' and its partners, I detail the prevalence and centrality of corporate standards, action, and agency in regulating economic life. For the dreamers, innovators and creative minds aspiring to re-invent money in European cities, the corporate model - by which I mean the organisation of economic enterprise as a legal person - is the backbone whereupon ideals, expectations, and visions of society are articulated. Specifically, I interrogate the principle of 'efficiency' in underwriting their efforts. I suggest an approach that integrates insights from the anthropology of finance and corporate anthropology by focussing on efficiency as, in the words of economist Richard White Jr, "an intellectual artefact, as doctrine or as ideology" (1999:8). While aiming to build a more sustainable local economy and inclusive society by challenging global capital, Qoin engages with local stakeholders and municipalities. In doing so, they claim political agency and put forward understandings and practices of citizenship - i.e. what makes a good political subject - which are rooted in a framework of incorporation and efficiency.
Global capital as a local challenge: the anthropology of corporations