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Abstract: Local currencies issued by civil society are often advocated by the degrowth movement as innovations that facilitate voluntary degrowth, but also as tools for coping with chaotic instances of unvoluntary degrowth, such as the present crisis in southern Europe. This paper provides a concise history of Argentina’s barter networks, which attracted millions of participants during the economic crisis of the early 2000s, and recounts two explanations of how the barter currencies came to be largely privatized by a handful of individuals. This case is used to illustrate two challenges for the creation of democratically accountable local currencies under circumstances of widespread unvoluntary degrowth: the risk associated with the autonomist approach of not seeking state support, and the risk arising from the prioritization of deliberative democracy and community – building over economic effectiveness.

Contribution to the Degrowth Conference in Venice 2012.