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Favabank Community Bartering Favabank is modernising the age old idea of barter, exchanging items and time as favours between members of your community. Connect with people in your neighbourhood via the exchange of favours.

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Barter and Recycle Your Unwanted Stuff All barter exchanges are tracked using a virtual currency called a 'Fava', to create a 'gift economy' where the more you have given, the more likely that people will want to reciprocate. The Fava is the foundation for 'pay it forward' economics.

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The Barter Myth

Posted by John Durrant on Thursday 8th December 2011, 12:56PM

I've just started reading 'Debt, The First 5,000 Years' by anthropologist and social activitst David Graeber. The second chapter discusses the common misconception, repeated over and over again in standard economics textbooks, that transactional relationships between humans begin with a primitive kind of barter (e.g. trading one's chickens for a cow). People then discover all the problems with barter where the two parties involved must have a 'coincidence of wants', so the economic textbooks then go on to say that forms of money are developed to facilitate multi-dimensional bartering which then takes us to the concepts of credit and banking. Graeber criticises this simple progression for a complete lack of any historical evidence to support it, both archeologically as well as the experience of the colonial conquesting which failed to unearth any primitive societies which were using the simplistic bartering systems described within the textbooks. He suggests that thinkers from Aristotle to Adam Smith have conceived of this simplistic progression as a theoretical example, which has been interpreted as truth by other commentators and unquestioningly repeated as fact thereafter.

In creating Favabank, I've used 'barter' and 'bartering' to refer to the kind of cashless transactions that people usually associate with the terms. During my research I've encountered several articles which talk of a 'return to barter' should national currencies fail, or in circumstances of extreme austerity, such as the recent experience in Greece where 'bartering networks' have emerged. Rather than citing a return to barter, which may never have existed in the simplistic form we imagine, we should perhaps be talking about 'cashless exchanges' or 'alternative forms of trade'. Or if we continue to use the term barter due to the commonly held comprehensions of the term, we should perhaps try to avoid talking of a 'return to barter'.

Interestingly, Graeber highlights the differenece between a debt and an obligation, concluding that it is money which defines the difference between the two. A debt can be quantified precisely and is measured by money. An obligation is less tangible, more like a favour that one is obliged to return at some point in time. The 'Fava', the underlying currency within Favabank could be seen as a measurement of an obligation. This, however, raises some contradictions over whether the Fava a precise measurement of a debt, or whether it is more akin to an obligation to hopefully be reciprocated at some future time. By making the Fava a measurement of an obligation Favabank may run the risk of turning it into a debt, cursed with the same connotations of conventional money. Hopefully a Favabank culture will develop whereby we see the Fava more as a mere suggestion of an obligation rather than a debt requiring repayment.

1 COMMENTS | [ Login or sign up to reply to this post ]


Reply by Jay Ashley Sparks on Monday 12th December 2011, 9:47AM

Hi John,

Fantastic post about Barter, We run a Business to Business Trade Exchange on a global scale called Bartercard. (

I have to agree however, there is a strong skepticism towards the term 'Barter' people misunderstand what its all about and the benefits in doing business this way.

The is another very inspirational writer who writes on community Barter and alternative currencies called Thomas Greco -

I think it comes down to the understanding of what the value of money is and put simply what is money for and the answer is it is simply a medium of exchange a token if you will.

And a couple of very good videos - and

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