Has anyone ever tried to define property on the basis of and within a moneyless/exchange logic-free society? There is a tacit assumption that property is bad because it can be used to make money or to exclude others from using it. But what happens to property in a money-free society? Money-free means that there is no material gain. Many activists probably don’t realise this, just as they don’t realise that in a money-free society you don’t need profit because you get everything you need as a gift.
The abolition of property is unfortunately the sticking point for the establishment of the exchange logic-free society. You can’t abolish property because then new contradictions arise. What about “my bicycle”? So there are two decisive reasons against abolishing property: “injustice” of the process of expropriation and the impossibility of drawing the line for property, which is purely personal. In the ecotat chapter you write: “Other households are collectives of singles and couples, whose members each have a private space but all share living, dining, kitchen and laundry spaces.” How is private space defined? In the chapter “exchange values of private property are reproduced by society” you describe these relations well but with the disappearance of money these conditions no longer apply. In the conclusions you write: “The conclusion is clear: we need to do away with money, not simply capital”. But capital automatically disappears with money!
In “Ending money as capital” you quote Aristotle. It is quite simple. As long as I don’t get everything as a gift but have to buy it, I will do everything to earn money with my property. But this would mean unnecessary effort for me if I get everything as a gift. My property becomes useless!
On the opposite side of debt is credit. The lender has an interest in the debt and interest being repaid so that he can use that money to buy something else. But if he gets everything as a gift, then he no longer has an interest in credit and debt. This situation occurs the moment the money disappears.
I was born in 1955 in the GDR, the GDR and socialism in Eastern Europe were just ten years old. I didn’t consciously experience socialism until I was maybe 15, but we also dealt with the history of the GDR at school. The idea and the beginning were good, I think. The leadership wanted to realise an alternative to capitalism, without unnecessary consumption and with justice between people (there was no unemployment and no homeless people, for example). Today, this is criticised by all politicians and people talk about failure just because the shelves in the shops were not as full as in the West and not everyone could buy a car. I think that is very unfair to these originally good ideas. But we were under the influence of the western media, saw the advertisements on TV and in the seventies the leadership decided to also give the people the “standard of living” like in the west. Of course, this is impossible if there is no competition and therefore important things had to be neglected, such as environmental protection. To make it clear once again, I only defend the original idea of the GDR, not what was made of it.
When I finished my studies, I started working in a research institute in the construction industry. We were developing moisture meters for building materials. These devices had various shortcomings and I had some ideas on how to eliminate these shortcomings. But my superiors preferred to have their peace and suppressed my suggestions. It is a symptom of money that one makes a career for the sake of money. This is the case in all social systems that are based on money. One then often reaches a stage where one is incompetent. In a money-less society, the level of competence will sort itself out because there is no other reason to make a career. We certainly understand each other when I say that career is then something quite different. It is then rather different levels of wisdom.
In socialist society, money is also a risk factor. Small farmers, for example, bought bread to feed their animals because bread was subsidised and was cheaper than grain. In our research institute, money was planned. We got the money whether we did anything for it or not. That led people to make a comfortable life for themselves, because they were paid for it.
I didn’t do my doctorate on private property, but I lived for 35 years in a state determined by national property – a society without private property. I know the run-down houses that no one felt responsible for. That’s why I have a different opinion towards property and I would like people to discuss it in post-capitalist circles as well.
On freedom and democracy
For many people, freedom is a liberation from fears. Democracy is a tool to free oneself from these fears. One feature of capitalism is people’s fear of losing their jobs. If they lose their jobs, they lose their security and livelihood. Simply put, people are afraid of starving. This is a very personal fear, much stronger than the fear of climate collapse. That is why the great masses will always vote for the party that promises them jobs. And the fact that this promise is linked to growth, production of greenhouse gases and consumption of resources is accepted by these people without thinking about it.
These landscapes that you write about will certainly come into being, I am quite sure of that. But there will also be other landscapes that you cannot imagine at all, but the important thing is that they are based on the fact that the gifts of the earth do not have a material value, that you can simply buy them, but that they are given to you as a gift and you feel obliged to give something back in return.
You write: “Yet most alternative ways of living, including alternative technologies, are challenged and marginalised by capitalist forces in political, social, cultural and economic ways – to such an extent that such practices constitute acts of resistance”. They are not challenged and marginalised, rather they simply cannot prevail in competition.
The only aim of capitalist technology is to generate growth. Marketing takes precedence over higher use value.
On the market
Actually, there could also be some “market” in the moneyless society. Today there is also competition within the civil society. Non-commercial sports competitions or choir competitions are such things (I am a passionate choir singer).
You often write “the capitalist” and one gets the impression that it is a human-driven system. Have you ever realised that almost all “workers” have an employment contract with an institution? It is an institution that directs the destiny. Even CEO’s are employed by these institutions. On page 38 you write: “In this monetary world, not only is there no driver but also no driver’s seat.” That clearly characterises this situation.
I also sometimes try to talk to representatives of the church. When I tell them that we could realise the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven in the short term, they say that we humans will never experience it in this world. I feel similarly when I talk to someone from the spectrum of post-capitalism.
But it would be really simple. Everyone is in debt and has an interest in getting rid of their debt. If we manage to convince everyone to call for a global referendum to abolish all debts and at the same time abolish all money, then we will have eliminated the problem because the creditor will no longer have an interest in his yield because he will be given everything he needs as a gift.
One thought on “Remarks on the book Beyond Money – A Postcapitalist Strategy by Anitra Nelson”
Readers, please note that Eberhard has offered ‘remarks’ on my book, not a review. At the website/page below you will find more details about the book, a link to the short film associated with it, and links to a free pdf, media and reviews as well as the publisher.
I will just pick up on some key points in my response.
First, ‘property’ means ownership,and private property refers to the general form of ownership within capitalism. I argue for a world beyond money where access is gained on the basis of use rights, not ownership; where people share with one another and with Earth (more-than-human nature) on the basis of commoning. Personal property is minimal (clothes and so on). For a practical case of these kinds of relationships read the chapter by Natasha Verco, ‘Christiania: a poster child for degrowth?’ in a Housing for Degrowth (2018) collection that I co-edited with François Schneider.
The Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies (2011) collection I co-edited with Frans Timmerman explores nonmarket socialism, a money-less, market-less, wage-less, class-less and state-less society that aims to satisfy everyone’s basic needs while power and resources are shared in just and ‘equal’ ways. This is the kind of socialism, in fact ecosocialism which grounds my work. This perspective does not argue for public property or state managed property of the kind Eberhard experienced and very reasonably objects to. Self-determination and collective governance are key for a world without property./money/capital.
When I use the term ‘market’, I refer to trade, i.e. monetary exchange. A world beyond money still involves exchange like this discussion we are engaged in, and when we transfer goods and do services for others and they for us. Nonmonetary economies and nomonetary exchange prevails.
Capitalism is a system that certain people have developed and keep reproducing and that others inherited and copy. Yet more people have had capitalist practices forced upon them. Yes, it is a human system, a set of human relations and human institutions involving a lot of the more-than-human world too.
See this page at my site: