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Local Exchange trading systems: Globalising Rural Communities

Ethel Crowley

Abstract

This paper is a sociological investigation of an alternative economic network that is active in Ireland and throughout the western world. This network is based on Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS). LETS is composed of a network of people who attempt to delink from the international cash-based economy as much as possible. They wish to trade goods and services on a barter basis, among a limited group in the local area. This research is a case study of one LETS operating in west Cork in the south-west of Ireland. Does this group of people form the vanguard of a new social movement in the region? What is the best means of conceptualising their activities sociologically? It is proposed here that the employment of Moichel Maffesoli's concept of ‘neo-tribes' is the most useful framework to understand this group. They are generally counter-urban, and non-Irish, and impermanence and transience are the main features of their socio-economic activities. However, it is argued here that they form a crucial part of the changing social lanscape of rural Ireland, as they provide a social springboard for other alternative social activities such as farmers' markets. Fora such as LETS help to foster social contact between people and thus breathe new life into rural communities that might otherwise be in serious decline.

Keywords : LETS, Social Movements, Globalisation, Neo-Tribes, Informal Economy, Community, Networks.


Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).