Technological Populism and its Archetypes: Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
Blockchain technology claims to disrupt the existing financial system, the way of doing business, and to empower ordinary citizens against an elitist economy through decentralization of the decision-making process. In the political arena, the disruptive ideology branded as ‘populism’ challenges the neo-liberal establishment. By appealing to peoples’ fears, frustrations, and dissatisfaction with the political elites, exploiting distrust in the so-called establishment, populism claims to deliver more power to the people.
In this article, we draw a parallel between core foundations of political populism and those of blockchain and propose a theory of technological populism. Technological populism as reflected by blockchain platforms exploits the rhetoric of empowering the disenfranchised through decentralized decision-making process, enabling anonymity of transactions, dehumanizing trust (promoting trust in computation rather than trust in humans and institutions) as well as breaking the monopoly in the financial system and money supply. The rhetoric of empowering the disenfranchised against financial elites is not only propaganda but also a method of accumulating wealth for technocratic elites.
Ultimately, the blockchain and cryptocurrency world has perfected what political populists have pioneered — unrealistic promises, turning the citizen against “the elites” only so long as they are not the elites in charge.