Power struggles on the blockchain: From de- to recentralization

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch

Abstract

The emergence of blockchains, a distributed ledger technology based on peer-to-peer networks, cryptography and game theory, came along with a re-invigoration of decentralization imaginaries of the internet in general and of the energy sector specifically. Based on field work in the blockchain-in-energy community around Berlin in the years 2016-2018, I show how blockchain technology acts as an Anchor for Societal Conflicts (Götter, forthcoming): The struggles over de- versus recentralization on the blockchain function as surrogate conflicts over broader societal questions regarding the distribution of power and wealth. By moving the scene of discussion from the societal to the technological level, blockchain technology contributes to depoliticizing the societal debate and prevents fundamental societal conflicts from being addressed, let alone resolved. The surrogate conflict acts as a veil of ignorance that obscures questions of power. Thus, a new technology may paradoxically end up contributing to what early user communities advocated against. In the case of blockchain technology, visions of spatial, economic and power decentralization fade as the technology merges with and reproduces centralized structures present at both the technological and the societal level.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEphemera: Theory & politics in organization
Issue numberSpecial issue: Organized ignorance
ISSN2052-1499
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021
EventTransformative Technologies - Kerschensteiner Kolleg des Deutschen Museums, München, Germany
Duration: 30 Jan 20202 Feb 2020
https://www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-40444

Workshop

WorkshopTransformative Technologies
LocationKerschensteiner Kolleg des Deutschen Museums
Country/TerritoryGermany
CityMünchen
Period30/01/202002/02/2020
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Part of doctoral dissertation.

Keywords

  • blockchain
  • decentralization
  • recentralization
  • democratization
  • energy transition
  • power struggles
  • infopower
  • energopower

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