Transforming or reproducing an unequal economy? Solidarity and inequality in a community currency

Ester Barinaga

Lund University, Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Dept. of Business Administration, School of Economics and Management; Sweden;


Building on empirical material from 6 months ethnographically inspired fieldwork in Málaga Común, a mutual credit community currency in Southern Spain, the paper uses Ostrom’s (1991) theoretical framework on common-pool resources to look deeper into the provision and appropriation dynamics in the currency scheme. Particular attention is put into the sources of inequality in members’ provision and appropriation capacities. Findings suggest that, embedded as community currencies are in the conventional economy, the sources of inequality from the conventional economy are also brought into the community currency. More particularly, private ownership and specialised complex skills lie behind members’ unequal capacity to earn community currency in relation to their spending needs. The paper ends by outlining some elements that would need attention when designing the governance institutions of community currency schemes that aim to overcome the inequality brought in by these currencies’ embeddedness in the conventional economy.


Mutual credit currency, inequality, Ostrom, resource system vs. flow of resource units; provision/appropriation ratio, common-pool resource.

Article Barinaga

To cite this article: Barinaga, E (2019) ‘Transforming or reproducing an unequal economy? Solidarity and inequality in a community currency’ International Journal of Community Currency Research 23 Issue 2 (Summer 2019) 2-16;; ISSN 1325-9547; DOI