1999 volume 17(1) pages 69 – 86

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North P, 1999, "Explorations in heterotopia: Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) and the micropolitics of money and livelihood" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(1) 69 – 86

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Explorations in heterotopia: Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) and the micropolitics of money and livelihood

Peter North

Received 21 May 1997; in revised form 4 October 1997; in final revised form 1 June 1998

Abstract. In this paper I examine the politics behind the establishment of Local Exchange Trading Schemes or LETS. By deploying concepts of the 'heterotopia' and of 'micropolitics', I examine the extent to which advocates of LETS as a resistant space have developed a micropolitical tool that enables the realisation of resistant conceptions of money and exchange, of livelihood, community, and cooperation. A fourfold conception of the heterotopia is developed to examine, first, the multiplicity of resistant conceptions of money and work developed by participants. Second, LETS is held to be effective micropolitics if these benefits are realisable, irrespective of the attitudes of elites, for any length of time within this resistant space. Third, I consider whether participation in LETS transforms the values of network members who do not initially share these changed cultural codes, and, if not, whether, fourth, LETS is consequently best thought of as a vision of a presently 'impossible' -- that is, unrealisable -- space. In conclusion, it is argued that LETS is a resistant social movement that has developed an effective micropolitical technology which enables members temporarily but discernably to actualise their changed cultural codes within this resistant space, restricted by exclusion from the access to economic resources beyond participants' private ownership or control.

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