Monday, April 6, 2015

Mobile Money

The system of remittance/mobile money in Kenya shows the intimate blending of many different social spheres of life in light on new technologies and economic systems. The remittance payments bring together old traditions (such as circumcision ceremonies) and new phenomena (such as increased emphasis on education). What I found particularly interesting in this study was the different ways that people used and viewed remittance payments. On the one hand they were used as tools for empowerment, providing individuals or groups with income that they might not normally be able to acquire. The polygamous nature of many families seemed to be a driving factor in this need for redistribution.

Conversely, the redistribution seemed that it quickly became excessive and an annoyance to many individuals, whether by the shear scale of remittance requests or requests from individuals who the “request-ies” deemed unworthy of remittance. It was in this part of the article that I felt the most personally connected with. Though I have no experience with mobile money or remittance, I can relate to constant technological barrage of social and media demands. In the United States, this barrage is usually divided between the social (messages, requests, posts) and the monetary (advertisements). These spheres can be exhausting enough separately, it is hard to imagine them combined, and especially with the monetary having a personal/obligatory twist.

The implications of mobility are also particularly interesting with these types of transactions. Traditionally, reciprocity and collusion has been increasingly difficult when dealing with longer distances. Now, money can easily be exchanged by people of varying economic backgrounds across countries with very low risks of being lost or stolen and at a very low cost. This has incredible implications from a development, business and personal perspective.

Mobile Money

I found the article by Kusimba to be particularly interesting, as  I was not aware of the usage of this sort of mobile currency in developing areas. The article overall seems to reflect that the author believes this type of currency possesses some promise and could be used for helping provide "banking" type services for those who otherwise may not be able to access a bank. It does provide a type of quickly transferable currency that is safer and more efficient. There is also a noticeable social aspect to this currency as it has become a new means through which people gift each other money and exchange to those who may be far away, such as family members in America. This interconnected network of giving is quite complicated, however, it is a means of establishing a sort of "credit" system quickly and effectively.
My final paper is discussing the issue of development in parts of the world, and proposes possible solutions. This could serve as a possible system to work into many developing nations as banking and credit are difficult to establish in certain parts of the world, however, any other form of exchange is too slow or inefficient to keep up with the present market. There is also the added bonus of allowing people to stay connected even when they are separated by an ocean.The only reservations i would have with this system is possibly leaving a population of people in the process of rebuilding vulnerable to any type of exploitation. Since the currency itself is simply lines of code there is no tangible proof of its existence and that does concern me when it is being used by people who have historically been exploited by nations and companies in the global north.

Money Communities

Because my research for this class looks at the history and non-capitalist experience of North American Rainbow Gatherings--a social/economic experiment that includes elements of the celebratory drumming and dancing environment Bill Mauer describes in his paper, “Money Nutters,”--I was drawn to his framing of two emerging alternative economies: Bitcoin and Time Banks.

He suggests these two economic experiments are “two arms of a hyperbola” (Mauer 2011, 6). I found this geometric visual reference to be interesting but not as effective as it might have been with a graphic (what can I say? I’m a visual learner!). Additionally, while the association allows for interesting conceptual associations and word play (hyperbola/hyperbole), in the end this type of framing has less resonance for me than understanding alternative economic systems in a complexity context.  Rather than systems that are operating in separate spheres, my understanding of how alternatives emerge comes from a complex network of social connections (including knowledge and ideas) that respond to patterns of innovation and adaptation. 

At any rate, Mauer provides a good platform for exploring what he calls “a crazy time for money, not just money’s conceptual status or construction, but its very materiality” (Mauer 11).  It may be of interest to some to know that Athens also has a “time exchange.” Please check it out!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Urban-rural remitances

It is important to understand that remittances are private resources that are part of the family wage, where one of its members, pushed by poor economic conditions in their community and country, had to go elsewhere for work and support the rest of the family. Hence, its main objective is to cover the costs associated with social and economic reproduction of the family (food, health, clothing, improvement of houses, etc.). Remittances therefore come into play as a replacement of the role that a salary or wage would traditionally take. It could be very dangerous to think that remittances can't replace the role of public policy in economic and social development of national economies, even though governments have include them as a target of policy or have come to count on them as a part of the national income.

The article rises a very interesting issue, this being the socio-cultural role that remitters come to play or is given to them in the social structure back home. This money has such value, in many ways, that the physical presence of an individual becomes secondary. It is very interesting to think this through, the question that comes to my mind is, mobile money is a very suitable way of maintaining human relationships even if you are away from home?  

Money Nutters

Bill Maurer put forth some ideas on alternative currencies that have been circulating around the world due to new technological advances and the fear of a systemic deflation. I for one really resonated with the ideas of the "time bankers" who use time as a unit of currency...accounting one hour of one's time used as one hour of another's time used, providing an equal platform for the use of one's labor. This made a lot of sense to me because it is true that as humans, our time is inevitably limited. Capitalism today alludes that one's lifetime is of higher value than another's based on the dollar-worth of one's hour over another...because the work they're doing is "better" or "harder". I don't like this idea because it diminishes the ontology of the individual; degrades the bond of humanism.

I was also enlightened in some sense to how Bitcoin and Air time payments operate, which were always vague ideas to me. I find that with such a seemingly open flow of ideas on alternative currencies, there is potential for more diverse economies. I was interested, though not surprised, to read of the lawsuit from paypal to google wallet. Essentially, there may be slight infringement of intellectual "property" (though my research paper is determined to dismantle the capitalist-centric assumptions surrounding property), but is it such a bad / punishable thing to view like-thinkers as your adversaries? If you ask me, this is against the advocate for change's interests.

Alternative currencies

In the article, “Money Nutters” Bill Maurer discusses a variety of new types of currencies that create alternative forms of exchange. Maurer explains how these forms of currency, such as Bitcoin, have created a new type of economy that is not regulated by state governments, and are also not dependent on cash in order to function. It seems that there are many advantages to these new forms of exchange, but it is important to be aware of the potential problems they may cause. Really Really Free Day is one of these new systems, in which the currency is based on “units of time” (Maurer, p.6). This system may have a lot of potential for solving the problem of wage inequality as well. It is an interesting solution to the current system, where many people are paid a minimum wage that does not provide adequate compensation for the amount of work they do or the cost of living.
It is not surprising that so many people are creating alternative economic systems that better fit their needs. These alternative methods work around the current system, which requires economic inequality in order to function. By not making debt and interest a necessary part of the way money is stored and exchanged, people have more control over their finances. When people are more financially independent, and no one is exploited for their labor, it seems logical that the economy will improve overall, on a local as well as a global scale.


Maurer, Bill. “Money Nutters” Economic Sociology, Vol 12, Nr 3 (July 2011)