Last month, Ethereum finally made the switch to a proof-of-stake protocol. The Merge slashed Ethereum’s future annual emissions down to a level close to Gibraltar’s, but it hasn’t yet ended the crypto winter. Nor has it dampened concerns about the emissions entailed by crypto more broadly, not when the carbon cost of mining a single bitcoin increased 126-fold in the last five years. As one of our articles frames it, in comparative terms, Bitcoin production sits squarely between beef and crude oil burned as gasoline.
The financial sector, meanwhile, continues to experiment with new use-cases for blockchain, and expand access to digital assets. Singapore’s largest bank recently rolled out crypto trading to 100,000 more of its clients. Other big announcements came from SWIFT, the international financial messaging system which notably severed Russian banks from its network after the invasion of Ukraine. One new pilot project, tapping the likes of Vanguard and Citigroup, aims to ‘automate corporate action workflow’ with help from a blockchain startup. Another, involving the central banks of France and Germany, has SWIFT working towards infrastructure that could service an international CBDC network.
One can expect these developments to have geopolitical ramifications. Moscow had already been increasing its dependence on the yuan in an attempt to ‘de-dollarize’ its economy; now, according to the Deutsche Bundesbank, the country is working with Chinese payment systems to evade sanctions. And even as Beijing consolidates its grip over the tech sector, Alibaba’s fintech arm is spreading throughout Southeast Asia, where more than 60 percent of people are still unbanked.
Non-financial firms are also facing new terrain. To navigate the ‘meta-jungle’, companies from Disney to Procter & Gamble are hiring Chief Metaverse Officers to the tune of million-dollar salaries. There’s money everywhere, but remuneration was avowedly not in the mind of Pierre Poilievre, the new populist leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, the many times he advocated for crypto on the campaign trail. The Bitcoin ETF in which he invested may have lost almost 40 percent of its value since April, but he remains crypto’s ‘political poster child’ du jour.
As for the other insights furnished by our articles this month, you can read about how sentiment around crypto regulation impacts prices, volatility, and trading volume; why ‘crypto-crime’ and ‘financial governance’ are key media discourses; and how DeFi is preserving the sexism of neoliberalism. The full curated list continues below.
Governing the Digital Economy: An Exploration of Blockchains with Chinese Characteristics
In China, blockchain experiments have already been rolled out in such areas as court records, securities exchanges, finance, and food supply chains. How will blockchains impact the evolution and shape of this country's social and economic structure? Will they influence the way it interacts with the rest of the world?
Cryptocurrencies and the IPE of Money: An Agenda for Research
Applying the commodity theory of money and the state theory of money to cryptocurrency, this article argues that political economists should attend to the forces that may impact its development as money. Of particular interest is the role of the state in both promoting and curbing the use of cryptocurrencies as money, as well as private actors' ability to stimulate the same.
“Women, Consider Crypto”: Gender in the Virtual Economy of Decentralized Finance
The rise of decentralised finance as an alternative development platform is explicitly gendered, according to this study. It elucidates how DeFi forms part of a 'neolibertarian' lineage, and explains how it leverages neoliberal beliefs about entrepreneurialism, financial inclusion, and gender roles.
“Into Human Flesh and the Human Heart”: On Promotionalism and the Long Con of Fintech Credit-Scoring
As our social data becomes credit data – thanks to fintech startups offering credit profiles derived from clients' online banking habits and social media accounts – the performance of 'appropriate' online selfhood can now, quite literally, become money. This ostensible alternative to credit scoring presents new paradoxical reputational demands and self-reflexive promotional logics.
Narrative Strategies for Emerging Disruptive Technologies: A Case Study of Blockchain for Europe
As evinced by the Twitter presence of Blockchain for Europe – the most prevalent business association representing crypto companies in the EU – novel interest groups are looking to strategically influence policies that target new technologies like crypto-assets. Their efforts are most effective when mentioning the benefits of policies and policy proposals more than costs.
Nothing to Lose but Their (Block)chains: Biometrics, Techno-Imaginaries, and Transformations in Rohingya Lives
A Malaysia-based nonprofit has been attempting to circumvent state rejection by inscribing the biometric data and genealogical information of Rohingya individuals on the blockchain. The enterprise strives to iteratively construct Rohingya subjects in order to re-present them as entities certified for 'financial inclusion'. Yet a nationalist resurgence in Malaysia has narrowed the spaces in which blockchained subjects might maneuver, begging the question of their 'nonsovereignty'.
Controle e vigilância no capitalismo digital: uma análise da tecnologia blockchain e sua implementação empresarial
How are blockchain technologies interrelated with the control and surveillance of systems? Analysing how blockchain emerged in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, when the need to regulate markets became clear, this paper surveys the elements of market control implemented since then, before considering what effect blockchain will have on corporate sectors' ability to monitor production chains.
A New “Wall Street Darling”? Effects of Regulation Sentiment in Cryptocurrency Markets
Building a Crypto Regulation Sentiment Index (CRSX) from Google Trends records, this article studies how cryptocurrency regulation affects crypto prices, volatility, and trading. It finds that the CRSX has no statistically significant long-term impact on cryptocurrency prices – consistent with investors remaining bullish on crypto assets – but does have a large impact on cryptocurrency price volatility and trading volume.
The Media Life of Cryptocurrencies: From Libertarian Dreams to Institutional Control
This dissertation identifies two major discourses which characterise news media communication about cryptocurrency: the ‘Crypto-Crime’ discourse and the ‘Financial Governance’ discourse. These two macro discourses are appropriated by international media but often emanate and are echoed from institutional positions.
Economic Estimation of Bitcoin Mining’s Climate Damages Demonstrates Closer Resemblance to Digital Crude than Digital Gold
Proof-of-work mining remains a sustainability red flag. In the 2016–2021 period, per coin climate damages from BTC were increasing, rather than decreasing with industry maturation. On average, each $1 in BTC market value created was responsible for $0.35 in global climate damages; during some spans, BTC climate damages even exceeded the price of each coin created.