(Faculty of social science, Charles University, Prague)
Paper Short Abstract:
Despite Bitcoin being usually promoted as a global currency, its use can be significantly locally fixed in order to protect it from the competition of fiat money. Such policies present theoretical challenge where Bitcoin exceeds the boundary between categories of global and local currency.
Paper long abstract:
My ethnographic research is situated in an independent hackerspace Parallel Polis (PP) in Prague; a three-store building, which is significant by excluding fiat money from its premises and enforcing Bitcoin-only policy. This policy has been introduced in PP as an act of political declaration of resistance towards state power and also as an educative measure aiming to promote Bitcoin among non-users. The general aim of Bitcoin is to avoid centralized control and as such to provide infrastructure enabling the users to be indifferent to power. Nevertheless the potentially emerging economically "just" society which shall be the outcome of Bitcoin's implementation is based on what Karl Polanyi calls the liberal creed, resting on undeniable faith in self-regulating markets. Therefore I argue that even though the Bitcoin advocates in PP believe in the self-regulation of markets, they still feel the urge to protect Bitcoin by creating a Bitcoin-only space in surrounding "hostile" environment. Their Bitcoin-only policy thus presents an ideological contradiction where particular alternative money - which are by design libertarian and as such shall follow the rule of currency competition - are being regulated by copying the border-making techniques of other sovereign actors. Although Bitcoin is in PP presented as a currency which transgress control and boundaries, its use is being carried through restrictive policy of spatial exclusion and as such is distinctly localized. This particular case thus challenges the border between local and global currencies and provides opportunity for rethinking the categories of flow and fixture.
How mobile is money? Fixture and flow in emerging monetary regimes