Reduced Work Time, Participatory Democracy and Time Currency

Bruno Théret, December 2012

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Summary :

The potential of time currencies to serve as a tool of social change remains relatively unexplored, and yet these alternative currencies make it possible to combine into a single mechanism several different social and environmental goals: reducing work hours, increasing civic engagement in public affairs, lowering public debt, and redistributing wealth.

The current way in which time is socially distributed is a major obstacle to the democratization of contemporary societies, as equal access to government authorities and public services is largely determined by the amount of time citizens have at their disposal. Paradoxically, we spend much of our lives working in order to finance through taxes political and administrative activities that we could for the most part exercise ourselves, yet from which we are excluded because of the rationing of disposable political time and the liberal-bureaucratic constitution of the state.

The reduction of working time should thus be seen as having a distinct political goal: the development of participatory democracy. This objective is all the more interesting in that it does not necessarily imply lower sala-ries or re-investable profit. All that is required is that reduced working hours be matched by tax cuts accom-panied by corresponding cuts in public spending. The latter, in turn, would be offset by increased civic involve-ment in political activity and public services. Indeed, monetary taxes paid for by additional labor in a capitalist economy can be at least partially replaced by transferring work hours to hours spent on civic activities.

Sources :

Veblen Institute