PhD: Crisis or Opportunity? Post-capitalist possibilities of community currency movements (Phedeas Stephanides)


Phedeas Stephanides

Doctoral student
3S (Science, Society and Sustainability) Research Group,
School of Environmental Sciences,
University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK





Phedeas’s PhD research focuses on how the economic crisis influences grassroots civil action for sustainability. It aims to investigate the impacts and effects of the downturn on complementary currency networks and the associated practices of the actors involved

PhD (2012-2015) supervised by Gill Seyfang and Tom Hargreaves at the University of East Anglia


Crisis or Opportunity? An ethnographic case-study of the post-capitalist possibilities of crisis community currency movements

A growing body of scholarship – typified by the work of Gibson-Graham – suggests that capitalism is not inevitable. Yet literature on social movements employing direct-action tactics to unmake capitalism is still lacking. It has neither adequately dealt with non-capitalist practices, nor has it substantiated claims of efficacy in social change – particularly around alternatives to austerity.

This thesis uses a novel research approach and presents new empirical evidence to address the timely questions of whether and how these social movements support life despite-yet-beyond the recession. It thinks with, yet beyond, a (Bourdieusian) practice-turn in social movement scholarship to break new ground for literature on non-capitalist practices, alternative economies and social movements. Specifically, the thesis provides the first insider, multi-sited ethnographic case-study of three Athenian community currency movements. This informs the first study of community currencies dealing with the nitty-gritty of practicing the alternative economy. In so doing, it outlines what happens when people use community currencies to support their everyday practices and when non-capitalocentric ideas come into contact with the realities of modern-day Athens. It details a process of reflexive questioning, experimentation, learning-in-practice and contestation that both underlies and undermines the emergence of non-capitalist practices.

This approach enables an enlightened response on whether – and how – living despite-yet-beyond austerity is possible. The findings suggest that community currencies are only partly successful in enabling non-capitalist practices. And yet, the research uncovers a side of Athens and non-capitalist practices that would otherwise go unnoticed – enhancing faith in alternatives to austerity at a time when they are also getting a battering. If this is accepted, the thesis concludes with a novel conceptual model and a future research agenda on non-capitalism. This will play-out both to the benefit of scholarship and society. For it promises to conceptually advance the field and to further corroborate the non-capitalist imaginary.

Conference Presentations

Stephanides, P. (2014). ‘Community currencies of the recession era: Collective co-production of a post-capitalist future?’: Talk given at the ‘From Co-Production to Alternative Futures’ panel session of the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014. (Stephanides_Abstract_Community currencies of the recession era (pdf file of abstract)).


AusterityLeedsTxistockphotoE3x4Phedeas Stephanides

Phedeas holds an MSci (Integrated Masters) in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia to which he has returned for his PhD after graduating in 2012. His interests include: alternative economic spaces (community currencies, producer-consumer cooperatives, etc.), counter-cultural spaces, solidarity economics, (interstitial) post-capitalism, social movements/commons and sustainability transitions. Phedeas’s PhD research focuses on how the economic crisis gives rise and influences the practices and the cultural hypostasis of community currency and local bartering networks.