Re-Thinking Monetary Exchange: Some Lessons from England
Review of Social Economy, Vol. 68, No. 3, pp. 317-338, 2010
Posted: 14 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2010
This paper critically evaluates the recent shift away from a "thin" reading of monetary exchange, which views money transactions as universally market-like and profit-motivated, towards "thicker" readings of exchange, which identify the permeation of wider economic relations and not-for-profit logics. To do this, an empirical study is reported of what happens when money penetrates informal exchanges between family, friends and neighbours. The research findings lead to a more nuanced reading of monetary exchange being brought to light. The main finding is that the imagery and perception of paid informal transactions may be constructed and interpreted in "thin" terms by participants, even if the core motives and personal relations involved in paid mutual aid remain "thick." Significantly, while such a finding does not constitute a change in behaviour towards "thin" marker readings of economic exchange, it may explain why some people are dissuaded from undertaking paid mutual aid. In this way, while the paper does not reject the social and cultural embeddedness of economic exchange, it does serve to problematize the move towards thicker descriptions.
Keywords: informal economy, community self-help, mutual aid, gift-giving, Leicester
JEL Classification: H26, J46, K42, O17
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