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The culture and ideologies underlying the cryptocurrency economy

Since its birth in 2009, the massive potential of Bitcoin’s disruptive technology has been gradually unfolding. Bitcoin advocates have put forward claims about its potential to totally transform the world as we know it today. They envision it as the deliverer of an anarcho-capitalist utopia and a nail in the coffin of the centralized nation-state model.

A recently published research study suggests that the cryptocurrency economy is diffusely entangled in a web of mythic narratives which reflect the beliefs of anarcho-capitalists and libertarians. The paper demonstrated how these systems of value are engaged by participants in the cryptocurrency economy. Throughout this article, we will overview how this paper envisions the online culture of the cryptocurrency economy.

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Mythologies of the cryptocurrency economy:

The ideology of the cryptocurrency economy is basically entangled with the characteristics of its current constitution. It goes without saying that all cultural formations are socially, historically, ideologically, and politically contingent. Particularly, historical contingency is pivotal to thoroughly understand the cryptocurrency economy’s cultural, technological, and economic features.

This is reflective of the theory of embeddedness, introduced by Mark Granovetter, which states that within market networks, participants do not behave in isolation from a social context; instead, their behavior represents forms of purposive actions that are embedded in a strong network of well-established social relationships.

Cryptocurrency has the potential to totally transform the current social order, as it represents a technology that can be utilized to omit the need for governmental control via the centralized political model. The technological libertarianism philosophy, which was first adopted by cryptologists in the 80s, is still being highlighted by today’s cryptocurrency economy. In fact, the decentralized nature of the blockchain technology can protect us against unwarranted governmental surveillance.

Cryptocurrencies and cryptoanarchism:

Cryptocurrency set the ground for the political model of “cryptoanarchism”, which is supported by a large percentage of cryptocurrency advocates. Cryptoanarchism is a model of digital anarchy in a peer-to-peer, non-hierarchical sense, rather than the bloodbath sense that might be denoted by the colloquial usage of the term. Cryptoanarchism greatly depends on the usage of advanced digital technologies, especially the blockchain technology, to leverage anonymity and thus protect us against state sponsored surveillance.

The blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies can totally transform the nature of central government regulation, the methods used to tax and monitor economic interactions, and the systems used to preserve the privacy of information. Cryptocurrency has the potential to establish virtual communities that are resistant to oppressive governmental surveillance; anarcho-capitalist communities that would enable consenting individuals to freely communicate and exchange ideas, services, and goods banned by the traditional state apparatus.

The blockchain technology can help build “data havens” that can be used in the storage and distribution of information that are considered prohibited or illegal in one or more countries. These data havens would promote the right of free speech and would counteract the efforts of oppressive political regimens deployed to censor their citizens. As such, cryptoanarchy represents the technological liberation of people from the domination of the traditional state apparatus.

Cryptocurrency and libertarianism:

In addition to cryptoanarchism, cryptocurrencies also endorse another political ideology – “libertarianism”. As defined by Samuel Konkin in the “Libertarian Manifesto”, libertarians consider governments as central entities of coercion, immorality, directing murder and theft, and organizing oppression on a wide scale that cannot be conceived by random criminality.

Konkin emphasized that via practicing counter-economic activities, individuals can free themselves from statist oppression. Counter-economic activities include all forms of action that avoid, evade, and defy the control of the state. It goes without saying that cryptocurrencies can leverage all forms of counter-economic activities, even if they are illegal in nature. With the help of crypto, the counter-economy can grow, and the power of the traditional state would weaken to the point that anti-state libertarians would establish discernible ghettos and districts and predominate in virtual space colonies. These libertarian virtual space colonies would eventually become integrated with anarcho-capitalist mythologies, supported by cryptocurrencies that embody the theory of counter-economics.

Cryptocurrency and the cyberpunk legacy:

The cyberpunk genre is marked by some iconic movies such as The Terminator (1984), Robocop (1987), and The Matrix (1999) all exposing audiences to the same cyberpunk themes. In both The Terminator and Robocop, highly powerful tech-corporations are illustrated as wreaking havoc on dystopian near-futures, while The Matrix canonized the tech-savvy anti-heroes of classic cyberpunk conception. It should be noted that these films appeal not so much to alternative decentralized institutions beyond the central state model, but rather, they invoke an alterity to all central institutions, which is inarguably a fundamental feature of crypto-anarchism and cryptocurrencies. It is this concept of technological resistance to centralized institutional oppression, common to both cyberpunk and crypto-anarchism ideologies, that the genre gained even more popularity in the 21st century.

All the mythic features of cyberpunk literature and movies are deeply rooted within cryptocurrencies – a global decentralized society, an impotent state, and a prominent anti-institutional ideology.

Cryptocurrency and the failing fiat economy:

2008’s financial crisis urged non-institutionally affiliated investors to start seeking innovative solutions that can alleviate the prominent short-comings of the conventional fiat economy. Inspired by the ideologies of libertarians and cryptoanarchists and inhabiting their own “space of flows” which are unrelated to the traditional state model, cyberpunk investors began considering using cryptocurrencies and other forms of alternative currencies that emerged in the cyberspace. These alternative currencies, even though not vouchsafed, seemed to render the traditional binary of state and market extremely constraining.

The story of the creation of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency heralded by participants in the cryptocurrency economy as a convenient alternative to fiat currencies and central financial institutions, factors in as the last narrative in this tale of modern ideologies and myths.

Final thoughts:

Cryptocurrencies are supported by a unique online culture marked by strong belief in decentralization, libertarianism, and cryptoanarchism. These ideologies are strongly supported by cryptocurrency advocates, who believe that cryptocurrency, and the blockchain technology in general, can not only transform the global economy, but can also totally disrupt the current political state model.

by: Tamer Sameeh

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