Conference paper accepted for June 2013

Conference paper accepted for the Second International Conference on Community Currency Systems.

Co-option, Resilience or Resistance? Lessons for Community Currency Systems from the UKdevelopment of Time Banking


Community currency systems (CCS) often seek to promote alternative values and practices often in opposition to capitalist systems, yet seemingly fail to change political and economic structures. Drawing on UK research into time banking by the author, the paper illustrates the alternative values offered by time banking and the role these play in community development and local economies. It will be suggested that ideological ambiguity rests at the heart of CCS facilitating co-option into mainstream policy and that this co-option is perpetuated by the focus on resilience within local communities against global, neo-liberal economics. Consequently the alternative values and their potential development in society are therefore abated. To conclude the paper suggests that co-option is often the case for community self-help initiatives largely as a result of government “support” for the schemes and efforts to promote alternative values must be part of wider welfare reforms.

The paper starts by explaining the key aspects of time bank theory which suggest that alternative values exist, drawing a distinction between core and market values and illustrating the distinction between political and technical goals. This is then examined in relation to the alternative values put forward by other CCS to illustrate similarities and differences. The use of time banking in the UK is then explored in relation to different Government ideologies since 1997, considering first how time banking has developed and second how it has been gradually co-opted into neo-liberal thinking. Co-option is then associated with the idea of community resilience. The aim of this discussion is to illustrate how, within a policy context where individuals and communities are often seen as the source of their own social problems, the ideological ambiguity of time banks facilitates its manipulation to fit other ideological priorities. In particular time banks are attached to the self-help view that whilst communities are the cause of social problems they are also the solution. It is here that community resilience becomes a useful concept for policy makers to draw upon when seeking to use CCS in policy programmes: causing the political goals to change. But this process removes the possibility for promoting alternative values which supporters of CCS advocate. In highlighting this process some suggestions will be offered as to how this might be avoided in the future linking the development of CCS with other welfare reforms to promote alternative values and resist co-option

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Time banking, a form of community currency facilitating time-based exchanges, developed in the United States during the 1980s before transferring to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s. Whilst now operating in over 30 countries, this paper explores the US–UK link, focusing on time bank practices within criminal justice. Examining time bank theory and the UK/US policy contexts, this paper provides an account of the Time Dollar Youth Court and the UK time bank prisons initiative, to facilitate a discussion of policy transfer and lesson drawing. Such an approach provides a fresh insight into time bank development, opening up a previously unexplored aspect of time bank policy experimentation.