‘At the Very Beginning, There’s This Dream.’ The Role of Utopia in the Workings of Local and Cryptocurrencies
Forthcoming in the Palgrave “Handbook of Technological Finance,” edited by Raghavendra (Raghu) Rau, Robert Wardrop and Luigi Zingales. (27 February 2020)
Posted: 28 Jan 2019 Last revised: 23 Jul 2020
Date Written: February 27, 2020
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the number of alternative currencies aiming at transforming global financial institutions, such as local and complementary currencies (LCC) and cryptocurrencies, has exploded. Yet the motivations and workings of such monies are relatively unknown. This chapter aims to fill this gap by providing a framework that uncovers the ideals pursued by alternative currencies, and the effects of those ideals on the production of money. To do so, I present a comparative analysis of the valuation infrastructure – the processes through which value(s) is produced – of one LCC, Sol Violette, and three cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ğ1 “June” and impak Coin. Throughout, I elaborate on the social meaning of money and the role played by alternative currencies in contemporary capitalism. I show that 1) despite targeting the same financial institutions, the utopia pursued by alternative currencies varies significantly and 2) this utopia is at least as important as the technology (e.g. blockchain) in shaping the workings of these monies. Based on these findings, I outline some implications for the social studies of financial technologies, their effects on our societies and their regulation.
Keywords: Cryptocurrencies, Debt, Local and Complementary Currencies, Money, Monetary System, Utopia, Values
JEL Classification: N20, 035, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation