A definition by Patrick Viveret

« Social », « parallel », « alternative », « complementary » money etc., reveal projects which have in common the fact that they react against major imbalances of prevailing currencies and especially against their increasingly dangerous dependence to speculative markets.

The main vocation of the currency, its reason for being, is to facilitate the exchange and activity between individuals by establishing a common unit of count and creating a trust perimeter (hence the term of fiduciary money, which means “faith, confidence” in Latin). And yet, it is this first purpose that is questioned today by phenomena such as misery and exclusion.

A tremendous potential of wealth generation * is wasted for at least half of humankind, intelligence, creative and transforming capacities are sterilized and focused on pure survival. This applies for instance when it comes down to unequal distribution of wealth across the world, as well as to millions of individuals in our societies who dispose of far too insufficient revenues. Additionally, the first attribute of exchange systems or social money is on the one hand to recreate exchange capacities, which are artificially limited by money and credit policies applied to prevailing currencies and on the other hand to play the role of fire doors for the real economy in case of major financial crisis, as it is the case in this turn of the decade 2010.

Since the beginning, the social and solidarity economy has been striving to address two major issues, firstly by elaborating recommendations and struggling to reform organizations intended to deal with the monetary problems at heart: it is the purpose of financial regulations campaigns, such as those put forward by global and European social forums, attended by social and solidarity economists. Yet, the social and solidarity economy experiences itself these transformations in all possible occasions, without having to wait for the implementation of these reforms. It’s precisely the case of the solidarity  finances* and other similar approaches, thanks to a better use of traditional currencies.

But this can also be the case with the organization of new exchange systems, such as Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS*), banks of time, or RERS – réseaux d’échanges réciproques de savoirs and other experimental systems such as the système d’échange coopératif d’utilité écologique et sociale, the SOL, developed within the framework of the Equal European Program.

To learn more about the SOL, see “The SOL initiative in France”

by Patrick Viveret, philosopher,

Alternatives Économiques: L’économie sociale de A à Z, special issue n°38 bis.