Creating a Gift-Based Sphere of Exchange in Greece
A large number of groups all over the world are creating alternative, utopian visions of a world governed by non-monetary economies based on bartering and gift-exchange. Both the perceived lack of solidarity in market economies as well as the daunting existential situations people are facing in terms of poverty provide the ground on which such visions of solidary economies are exploding today.
The TEM scheme in Volos:
The case study that will be presented is located in the Greek city of Volos, facing the double crisis of the almost closure of its port (following the Syrian civial war; cutting the trade relations between Greece and the Middle East) and the effects of the austerity policies (creating a lack of disposable income in the official currency).
In Volos, an alternative distributive system came into being in 2010 with the installation of the TEM scheme. Connecting time-banking, a complementary currency model and free bazaars, citizens of Volos are trying to realize an alternative economical system.
Contradictions and Challenges:
However, the contradictions of this real world application of a solidarity economy are not to be neglected. Ethnographic accounts of gift-based economies suggest a high degree of social control and mutual distrust in gift-economies. National states as well as the mainstream market economy are fearing the potential bypassing of commercial law and tax obligations. Social groups that are able to produce economic value (think children, disabled, non-skilled) are at risk of being even more marginalised. Furthermore, it is likely that the TEM scheme only provides an alternative sphere of exchange rather than replacing the mainstream economical and societal model.
The case study that will be presented shows how citizens enact a social utopia and the contradictions and pitfalls they are facing while doing so.