Prefigurative Monies: Utopian and Dystopian Imaginaries in an Argentinian Complementary Currency Organization

Paola Raffaelli, Simone Schiller-Merken

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Prefiguration refers to realizing imaginaries of a radically alternative future in the present (e.g., Yates 2015; Monticelli 2021; Schiller-Merkens 2022). It is an embodied anticipation of an alternative future, "of the not-yet reality" (Dinerstein 2022: 52), in social practices, coupled with an embodied critique of the present. Prefiguration is commonly linked to real and concrete utopia (Wright 2010; Dinerstein 2015): it is through prefigurative organizing and practices that utopias are considered to become 'real' `or 'concrete'. Thus, literature on prefigurative and alternative organizing usually associates prefiguration with the construction of utopian imaginaries of the future. However, as studies on the rise of alternative grassroots initiatives after the Great Recession in the Global South and in Southern Europe have shown, radical alternatives also emerge in times of crises when people search for ways to ensure their subsistence (e.g. Bosi and Zamponi 2015; Dinerstein 2015; della Porta 2015; Kokkinidis 2015). Rather than pursuing utopian imaginaries of a brighter future, many of these people desperately look for ways to meet their daily needs and to prevent a dystopian future from becoming real. Interestingly, both studies on prefiguration and on grassroots organizing in times of crises tend to assume that the creation of a radical alternative organization is either to create real utopia or to prevent real dystopia. We do not know much about how both utopian and dystopian imaginaries of the future can prevail in an alternative organization and how actors cope with the tensions that arise due to the co-existence of contrary imaginaries of the future in the same organizational setting.
In this paper, we address these questions by presenting insights from an ethnographic case study of a complementary currency organization in Argentina. Moneda Par was founded in 2017 as a community currency based on blockchain technology with the idea to develop a participatory and autonomous monetary system that allows economic exchanges in respect of both human and planetary welfare; it nowadays connects around thirty local communities in Argentina. Based on data from both participant observation and in-depth interviews over a period of 18 months in 2021 to 2022, our findings show that members diverge in both their construction of imaginaries of the future, which lead to different paths in prefiguration in relation to critique of the current monetary system, the creation of alternatives, and social change ambition. Our study suggests that prefiguration of radical alternatives should not only be associated with realizing utopia but also with preventing dystopia, both of which are involved in the fundamental transformation of the dominant economic system in society. Furthermore, the study contributes to scholarship on imagined futures by providing insights into imaginaries of the future in alternative organizations, particularly into the processes of contestation of imaginaries and the role of power dynamics in collective imagination processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023
Event 17th Organization Studies Workshop: Utopias and dystopias: Organization studies in a brave new world? - Athens, Greece
Duration: 2023 May 182023 May 20
Conference number: 17th


Conference 17th Organization Studies Workshop

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

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