Since the last edition of this newsletter, a few things have happened. Crypto’s go-to banks collapsed and were closed; US regional banks toppled down after them; the international banking system moved closer to crisis.
Now, the US regulatory agencies are going after all the exchanges. Crypto is turning desperately to the EU, which just passed its harmonized framework for governing digital assets. Some tokens have been rallying – both bitcoin and ether are up over 50 percent this year – and dozens more blockchain projects have crumbled.
The way it has been is the way that it will be. More meme coins will appear; more rugs will be pulled. The biggest open questions remain stablecoins and CBDCs. The scammers who thought they could get rich off crypto will now turn to AI (some are trying to do both at once).
Our recommended readings have less to do with the news, and more to do with what’s been present all along. One selection argues that the Web3 buzz was just another hype bubble inflated by VCs. Another theorizes why forms of private money are politically problematic by nature. A third attributes DeFi’s anti-democratic tendencies to the simple fact that tying votes to property ownership is not democratic at all.
Below you can find the rest of the standout research from the spring. Our next edition will round up the highlights from the summer.
In cryptoeconomics, systems engineering meets economic methodologies to produce infrastructure for social coordination. As this intellectual history shows, the emphasis on self-organizing also borrows heavily from the political ideology of a subculture known as cypherpunks.
FinTech has turned New Delhi and Bangalore into India's new international financial hubs, ahead of the incumbent Mumbai. This paper traces how the export-oriented ICT sector, the implantation of large-scale digital infrastructures, and enabling regulatory frameworks have together boosted the “Tech-Fin-State” ecosystem in those cities.
The attention around Web3 moved quickly from wild celebration to well-founded castigation. This is no surprise, as Web3 is yet another case study of innovation within the dominant model of Silicon Valley venture capitalism.
Regulating with platforms continues to be the approach in the UK, which prioritizes innovation, consumption, and competition. In China, FinTech expansion was once encouraged to expedite financial reforms, fuel economic growth, and ensure authoritarian state control; but now regulators are working to roll back platform power.
When physical gambling outlets closed during Covid lockdowns, retail investing apps and crypto exchanges stepped in to fill the gap. But in a peculiar ideological development, a vintage language of democracy began to circulate in this new speculative world. What does the rise of crypto really mean for democracy?
Do NFT's reflect anything other than the never-ending development of consumerism under capitalist societies? To the extent that Baudrillardian theory tracks onto non-fungible, but symbolically reproducible, art objects, the answer is no.
If the Chartalists are right that money is only money when it possesses certain properties that a political authority alone can impart – as this study asserts – then attempts by private actors to usurp a social "money function," like Bitcoin, can never be positive political developments.
As videogames become one of the most prominent use cases for blockchain, cryptogaming will increasingly position players and developers as financialized subjects, and force them to apply logics of risk and investment as salves to economic problems, both within and without the games industry.
Decentralised Finance's Timocratic Governance: The Distribution and Exercise of Tokenised Voting Rights
A timocratic society is one in which only property-owners have a political voice. Despite all the discourse to the contrary, the voting rights of DeFi projects – which exist as "governance tokens" – are highly concentrated. Minority rule is the likeliest result of token-tradable voting rights in the absence of anti-concentration laws.
This study gathers various relational theories – from ANT to accelerationism, Simondon's technics to DeLanda's assemblages – to show how technologically-aided cultural mutations like collectible NFTs have reshaped contemporary subjectivity.