Cryptocurrencies emerge as an outcome of the development of ICT and the financialization of the economy and society. The most famous cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was invented at the end of 2008 at the height of the financial and economic crisis. It was studied more as an implementation of blockchain technology during the first few years than a promising financial innovation. However, it took only a decade to attract hundreds of millions of people, including professionals from finance and politics and scholars from different disciplines.
The world of cryptocurrencies is radical. People from this circle ideologically challenge the incumbent financial infrastructure and hierarchy. They picture their ‘libertarian’ utopia, free of central power which regulates transactions and creates means of payment. However, the world of automated transactions questions started and restarted some of the fundamental questions about money, political and economic power, and the insufficiently investigated processes of financialization.
Cryptocurrencies re-initiate research in old theoretical and conceptual questions such as – what is the economic and social role of banking and finance; does the concept of fairness have a place at all in the market, and does the very existence of money introduce inequality? Fundamental questions remain: what is the nature and origin of money, legal, social, ideological, and political preconditions for its creation, and what are the consequences of money usage in these areas?
With an intensive retreat of cash payment (and with the advance of financial instruments, particularly derivatives), the discussion about a world without money has re-emerged, this time not as a utopian concept. There are two understandings of the world without money. According to an old description of such a world, money doesn’t need material representation at all – it is simply an ‘abstract scale of value,’ of which the only function is to be a universal unit of account. At first sight, it looks as if the digital world can fulfill these conditions.
On the other hand, crypto-tokens are described as financial instruments distinct from money and (financial) assets; nevertheless, they perform their functions and share some characteristics with them. Since crypto tokens do not have use value, they are also distinct from (digital) goods (i.e., software, computer games, etc.). Following this interpretation, the world where crypto-tokens replace financial instruments wouldn’t contain money as a universal unit of account and measure (fair) value.
However, it is not clear whether money fulfilled the function of the measure of (fair) value during the period of financialization before cryptocurrencies emerged. Whether the development of finance took the direction toward the world without money before cryptocurrencies? Or cryptocurrencies represent that necessary final step toward the world without a universal measure of value.
In other words, whether cryptocurrencies break with the traditional finance, or they continue financialization at a new level. There is an additional issue here related to the concepts of “equality” and “accessibility” behind any cryptocurrencies: Who is and under which circumstances (incl. with which access to technology) able to use and profit from them, who remains excluded and how to overcome the danger of new inequalities in financial terms?
This thematic focus invites researchers to apply with projects broadly related to
- the studies of competing visions of finance and economy in contemporary debates in economics, crypto-communities, and the financial sector
- the financialization of economies and societies, and its philosophical, historical, economic, legal, social, and political aspects
- the philosophical, historical, economic, legal, social, and political accounts of money, crypto-currencies, alternative financial instruments, and the world without money
- the trans-national comparative studies of regulatory treatments of cryptocurrencies and their underlying assumptions and visions