Crisis as Opportunity? An ethnographic case-study of the post-capitalist possibilities of Crisis Community Currency Movements (PhD project)

A growing body of scholarship suggests that capitalism is not inevitable and that moments of crisis provide an opportunity for critique and social transformation towards sustainability. Yet literature on social movements employing direct-action tactics to unmake capitalism and challenge austerity in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis is still lacking. It has neither adequately dealt with non-capitalist practices, nor has it substantiated claims of efficacy in social change.

This thesis used a novel research approach and presented new empirical evidence to deal with these shortcomings. It addressed the timely questions of whether and how these social movements support life despite-yet-beyond the recession. It thought with, yet beyond, a practice-turn in social movement scholarship to break new ground for literature on non-capitalist practices, alternative economies and social movements. Specifically, the thesis provided a multi-sited ethnographic case-study of three Athenian crisis community currency movements. This informed the first study of community currencies dealing with the nitty-gritty of practicing the alternative economy. In so doing, it outlined what happens when emancipatory ideas of using alternative currencies to support everyday practices come into contact with the realities of modern-day Athens. It detailed a process of experimentation, learning-in-practice and contestation that both underlies and undermines the emergence of non-capitalist practices.This approach enabled an enlightened response on whether – and how – living despite-yet-beyond austerity is possible. The findings suggested that community currencies are only partly successful in enabling non-capitalist practices. And yet, the research uncovered a side of Athens as a crucible of creative resistance that would otherwise go unnoticed. In this light, the thesis concludes with a novel conceptual model and an agenda for future research on non-capitalism. This will play-out both to the benefit of scholarship and society alike, as it promises to conceptually advance the field and to further corroborate the non-capitalist imaginary – enhancing faith in alternatives to austerity and capitalism.

Full text available here 

People involved: Phedeas Stephanides

Supervisors: Gill Seyfang, Tom Hargreaves

Timescale: 2012-2016

Funding: UEA