Date of Talk
Nigel Dodd is a Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Sociology. He is author of The Social Life of Money (Princeton University Press) and is currently working on two projects: one explores the ‘utopian’ properties of cryptocurrency and of blockchain technology in general; the other examines the sociological, political and philosophical case for universal basic income and its implications for our understanding of money.
In this talk I will have three main goals. First, to present the claim that Bitcoin is a form of ‘utopian’ money that is decentralized, stable and debt free. Second, to ask whether the social and political characteristics of the cryptocurrency ‘community’ are in tension with its utopian ideals. And third, to put the development of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into perspective as the world of payment undergoes radical change and ‘cash’ seems likely to disappear altogether. I argue that while Bitcoin offers an opportunity to use money outside of the apparatus of financial and state surveillance, which is surely a good thing, cryptocurrency arguably replicates the self-same inequities of wealth and power that can be found in the existing financial system, despite its utopian credentials. Moreover, Bitcoin performs quite poorly as money. Partly for this reason, I prefer to see Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, as part of a diverse future for money. A pluralistic monetary ecology – in which Bitcoin is used alongside cash, payments cards and local and community currencies – is likely to be more resilient, open, and democratic.