Deleuze in the wild: making philosophy matter for fintech

Sandra Faustino
Department of Social Sciences / CSG-Research in Social Sciences and Management, ISEG-Lisbon School of Economics and Management, University of Lisbon, Lisboa, Portugal

Journal of Cultural Economy 2022, VOL. 15 (1), pp. 93-102

This paper discusses the role of Deleuzian philosophy in fintech projects which operate ‘in the wild’, i.e. far from the major institutional settings of fintech development, and which speculate towards an alternative financial economy, building upon algorithms, blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and crypto-assets. Based on ethnographic data collected with three different projects, I discuss the process of earmarking financial operations by means of philosophical concepts or theories, which enable the re-interpretation of the process of financialisation of everyday life. I further analyse the conceptual socialization of these technological endeavours with the wider-reaching theme of accelerating the capitalist process with the objective to overturn its excessive powers. The paper concludes by suggesting that fintech experiments which are socialized with accelerationist narratives re-interpret the process of financialisation as a path of liberation instead of exploitation, offering an escape from the capitalist crisis through machinic alchemy.

Blockchain; financialisation; cryptoeconomy; ethnography; accelerationism

This paper discusses the role played by narratives in projects which code and implement financial technologies (fintech). I discuss three empirical cases in particular, all of which apply Deleuze’s philosophical theory, with the objective to present epistemological tales that address the emergence of ethical and political issues during the roll out of the technological process. The focus of this paper is derived from two defining aspects of the three selected case studies, namely that all are projects led by academics outside university settings, and also that the majority of these academics are philosophers. These projects are from organizations that work ‘in the wild’ (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003), in other words, far away from universities and from major blockchain-adopting corporations, and gravitating around the prospect of an alternative financial economy built upon open-source algorithms, blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and crypto-assets. Through the idea of tale articulated in this special issue, I describe how the narratives used by these organizations about their techno-financial experiments work as a way to devise solutions to the deceptive conventional economic and financial system (Propp 1968 [1928], and also Holmes 2009, Meissner 2017), addressing in particular the attractiveness of accelerating the capitalist process in order to overturn its excessive powers (Noys 2014). More specifically, I analyse how the pragmatic proposal of accelerationism – co-opting capitalism’s speed to accelerate its own plot, thus accelerating its ending – is made discernible through such tales, by analysing how they re-interpret financial practices, previously reprehensible, by embellishing them in a different narrative (Zelizer 1997, Ricoeur 2003 [1975], 1988).

[94] Similar to other papers included in this special issue, the tales described here are not provided in a literary form, but primarily formulated through empirical philosophy – generated by actors through experience rather than through text. More importantly, in this case, even though digital engineering is driven by particular philosophical concepts or theories, this does not necessarily lead to any material change, but rather facilitates a new interpretation of, broadly speaking, the same material configuration. The case studies described in this paper are, thus, what this special issue calls ‘open’, ‘temptative’, and ‘uncertain’. They are not a classical example of the application of theory through institutional settings and conventions; they are ‘cases of defiance’, which attempt to withdraw from the mainstream financial system by extending its devices and rationales onto new territories, thus pointing to how social facts can be created anew (Butler 2010, Boldyrev and Svetlova 2016, Wilkie et al. 2017).

From this point of view, the literature on financial performativity is somewhat peripheral to this line of thought, due to its focus on how theory shapes the material world (Knorr-Cetina 1981, Latour 1987, Butler 1990, Callon 1998, MacKenzie 2006). Although some performativity authors have explored the constitutive power of descriptions and of the ‘utterance’ itself (Muniesa 2016, Roscoe 2016), the performativity studies have mostly stood out by paying attention to the ‘visible’ effects – to the performative dimension – of abstract formulas or ideas. To borrow from Deleuze and Guattari, this paper rather investigates how tales may ‘deterritorialise’ (1987) and re-interpret a technological practice through a predominantly subjective process: one which ‘comments’ on its performance. Put simply, tales do not necessarily interfere with the techniques through which an algorithm for instance, is designed, deployed, and made profitable; but they can communicate a differing narrative about an algorithm, its nature and purpose, dissociating it from other algorithms even while the deployment techniques remain the same. Indeed, just as Deleuzian concepts, tales are more speculative than performative.

I have chosen the term ‘in the wild’, because it refers to both the creation of new concepts in empirical contexts (Deleuze 2004) and also to the existence of practice-oriented groups which carry out research outside institutional settings (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003, Svetlova 2018). The subjects of the cases described in this paper are set outside the university setting in order to pursue their projects independently, becoming both the object and the subject of their research (Callor and Rabeharisoa 2003, p. 202). However, these case studies conciliate theoretical speculation with digital engineering in a way that contrasts with both Callon’s and Svetlova’s more rigid distinctions. – Accordingly, this paper suggests that the ‘wild’ be taken more literally as an undomesticated context with relative independence from established institutional cultures and from the practice/ theory binary.

Materially speaking, the empirical cases described involve the development and utilization of blockchain technology, algorithms, cryptocurrencies, and crypto-assets. These technologies are employed with the intention of operationalizing a divergence from conventional finance, starting with the refusal to conform to the market/money monopoly by both public and private actors. However, as the cryptoeconomy develops an increasing reputation of replicating the neoliberal approach to financial markets (O’Dwyer 2015), these projects raise theoretical issues which themselves require further attention from academics and practitioners if they are to be taken seriously as divergent. For such a purpose, particular narratives guide the social navigation of these communities through material and technical landscapes, where Deleuzian philosophy returns new symbolic depictions for each operation, with a slight shift of their gravitational centre from an ‘objective’ and ‘rigid’ interpretation, to a more metaphorical one (Eco 1986, Rorty 1989, Faustino 2019, see also Ertürk, Ghosh and Kadambari in this special issue).

Although praised by some as being a technology that dispenses with social coordination (Kurzweil 2005, Tapscott and Tapscott 2016, Goertzel et al. 2017), blockchain technologies require social and political negotiation regarding their contextual relevance, and its products and communities have their own plots, which effectively turn them into situated experiences (for a notable ethnography of a software community, see DuPont 2017). Despite introducing encryption and [95] anonymity as the pillar of non-discursive interactions, the many decisions that affect the political economy of blockchain platforms involve continuous negotiation among their practitioners. This accordingly signals the function of narratives in ‘interpreting’ and interacting with fintech, and dismisses the general idea that technology is somehow opposed to the ‘noise and irrationality of political conflict’, or that it is a technique through which to ‘evade and circumscribe politics’ (Barry 2001, p. 7).

So, how do tales matter? In the cases discussed here, tales perform the function of earmarking money, in Zelizerian terms – the process of classifying and using money according to different subjective relations, such as making a donation to a church with allowance money rather than with money stolen in a robbery (Zelizer 1997). Expanding on Zelizer’s notion, I propose that tales may subjectively earmark transactions, financial operations, and numbers themselves. The apparent objectivity and rigidity of these elements is overcome by their qualitative distinctions, not just with regards to their origin or destination, but also regarding their fundamental meaning or nature, as conveyed by special vocabularies (Zelizer 1997, p. 24). The qualitative distinctions described in the ethnographic passages of this paper are crafted discursively through a re-interpretation of the process of financialisation of everyday life (Martin 2002), which applies symbolic order through narrative refiguration (Ricoeur 1988): a change of terms, if you will, in previous discursive classifications or categories (Bowker and Leigh Star 2000). It is thus suggested in this paper that the tales presented here may be seen as particularisms of an emerging and extant debate regarding accelerationism, which has taken place in philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, and politics (Noumena 2011, Noys 2014, Dillet 2015, Williams and Srnicek 2016), and which argues for an intensification of the capitalist process in order to solve the problems produced by capitalism itself. In the decentralized fintech landscape, accelerationist practices seem to characterize a post-Bitcoin community of sentiment (Appadurai 1990), which is composed of subjects who attempt to escape capitalism and the modern impossibility of labour by ‘alchemising labour with the machine’ (Noys 2014, p. 97).

This paper is based on the ethnographic research of three different projects: the Robin Hood Cooperative (RHC), the Economic Space Agency (ECSA), and Senselab. Following permission, I apply the real names of my interviewees while anonymising the remaining interlocutors. I first became acquainted with RHC by reading about the project online and later contacting one of its team members. At the time of the research, RHC was undergoing the process of transitioning from a web-based project to a semi-automated blockchain platform, whilst, at the same time, the initial RHC team was assembling a new team to start the ECSA project. I started out with a virtual ethnographic study of ECSA’s online working platforms, carried out during approximately six months, which included sitting in on the project’s weekly online meetings, accessing online working documents and following their chatrooms (Kozinets 2010). In 2017, I joined the ECSA team for a month in the garage of a house situated in a residential neighbourhood in Oakland, similar to many Silicon Valley start-ups. It was during this period that I met a member of Senselab, and one year later, I participated in a four-day event organized by Senselab in Naples, Italy. This event was dedicated to the cryptoeconomy and provided the opportunity for members of Senselab to meet with members of various other organizations in the field, including RHC and ECSA, local activists, and academics. I kept a fieldwork diary throughout the period of both the virtual ethnography and the fieldwork and carried out a total of thirteen in-person interviews, as well as three online interviews and several random recordings of working sessions.

The trajectory of these projects is described in the following section, starting at the university and continuing to ‘the wild’. The next three sections go on to describe the role of tales in earmarking financial operations: i) the conceptualization of stock market investments as a form of protest and political action; ii) the conceptualization of numbers as a qualitative expression, rather than a quantitative expression; and iii) the creation of new concepts to categorize financial operations. The final section concludes by signalling the wider implications of this phenomenon.

[96] From the university and into the wild
The Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative (RHC) was founded in 2012 by a group of artists and academics from the Aalto University School of Arts, in Finland. It is registered as a cooperative and accepts members from anywhere in the globe, with the aim to invest members’ funds in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and then distribute the profits among both the members and selected projects. The fact that an artistic project was generating profits on the NYSE led to the cancellation of the project’s funding, as ‘Robin Hood was seen as potentially dangerous to the reputation of the university’ (Piironen and Virtanen 2015, p. 99). The project’s coordinator, Akseli Virtanen, was subsequently dismissed from his teaching position at the School of Arts in Finland. He is a Finnish theorist, whose work is situated at the intersection of political economy, radical finance, and philosophy. In our conversations about his work, Virtanen emphasized the many years of research that both he and a larger group of thinkers had carried out to study and understand the economy beyond mainstream economics and business theory. To this end, they approached authors such as Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Christian Marazzi, Franco Berardi, Maurizio Lazzarato, Paolo Virno, among others.

During the RHC project, Virtanen and the rest of the team started exploring cryptocurrencies and decided to create the Economic Space Agency (ECSA). In 2016, Virtanen and other Finnish RHC members moved to Oakland, in the U.S., near the vibrant epicentre of Silicon Valley, where they partnered with others – philosophers, anthropologists, video-game developers, computer scientists, activists, coders, and finance theorists – half of whom were also academics. To this team they added a list of consultant theorists, and registered a start-up which defines itself as a ‘research and development collective’, casting a significant spotlight on theoretical production. Some members of this group had formal university teaching jobs and, curiously, the last appeal for collaboration I received on my last day of fieldwork was to forge a collaboration with Universidade de Lisboa (Lisbon University), with the objective of installing a cryptoeconomics curriculum.

It was during my fieldwork in Oakland that I learned about Senselab, one of ECSA’s closest partners at the time. Senselab is a laboratory for philosophy, art, and activism, which is based in Montreal, Canada, in partnership with Concordia University. Half of Senselab’s members are university affiliated, while the other half are mostly independent artists and activists. The founder, Erin Manning, is an artist, philosopher, and professor at Concordia University. As Senselab’s charismatic leader, she partners with Brian Massumi, a philosopher and professor at the University of Montreal, who is responsible for the English translation of Deleuze and Guattari’s work, ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (1987). According to Manning, the university constitutes an important milieu and, through its strategic relationship with Concordia University, Senselab advocates what it describes as ‘strategic duplicity’, i.e. working with the system ‘while nurturing an alien logic that moves in very different directions’ (Erin Manning, Naples, 12th May, 2018). Senselab’s collaboration with ECSA led to the challenge to learn about cryptoeconomics, options, and derivatives ‘in childlike steps, towards the unknown’. While blockchain seemed to represent a convincing way to escape from unwanted forms of work and legal structures, a certain amount of effort was required to convince Senselab’s left-wing collaborators, as they remained resistant to the libertarian tendencies of cryptocurrencies and did not think that it was something worth considering, and, just like for Virtanen and his Finnish group of thinkers, this would have to be done through the work of Deleuze and Guattari, William James, Alfred Whitehead, Spinoza, Simondon, Fred Moten, and others.

Earmarking investments on the New York Stock Exchange
When I found out about RHC, I became a member myself, which involved making the minimum investment of €60 via its website, even though I could have purchased a larger amount of shares in the cooperative to enlarge my investment and thus the potential return. Three types of profit-sharing options were available at the time of registering, which were: i) 100% of profits in return to the [97] investor; ii) 100% of profits into a common pool – with the goal of funding projects; iii) or carrying out a 50%/50% split of the profits between the investor and the common pool – I chose the latter. An algorithm would recommend investments in the NYSE to the fund’s manager and all I had to do as a member was wait the profits.

As there are no major investors involved, RHC describes itself as a minor asset management cooperative, deploying the Deleuze and Guattari concept of minor (1987): because this is a case where many small assets are invested together and also because it represents the management of the assets of minorities (Piironen and Virtanen 2015). Its most exotic hedge-fund trait is an algorithm called ‘Parasite’. Tére Vaden, a philosopher, RHC coordinator, and a professor at Aarhus University, described the Parasite as a competence ranking algorithm, which tracks the consensus among successful NYSE traders and recommends what it considers to be the best trading options, leaving it to the fund manager to make the final investment decisions. During the 2013–2014 fiscal year, based on the Parasite’s recommendations, an average of 4.2 transactions a day were made. Although the algorithm started to display unexplained strange behaviour in 2015, leading to financial loss, RHC allocated €15,000 as funds for commons-building projects, based on the profits generated between 2012–2014, which was considered a satisfying result in members’ general meetings.

While RHC strategy is convincing enough for its 8501 members, it is also prone to a particular kind of criticism, which is typified by a comment made by a visiting friend of the team who I met in Oakland:

[RHC] is not subversive, because it does not hold morals against the capitalist system. So, if a German producer of small weapons, for example, does really well on the stock market (...), Robin Hood will take part in that share. And they will support the income and the value of that company because there’s no moral boundary saying ‘you shouldn’t do that’. (RHC Interviewee A, Oakland, 11th April, 2017)

Going against such a reading, and also against the conventional ethics of leftist politics throughout the twentieth century, RHC argues in favour of ’Parasiting’ the financial system. The Parasite algorithm is named after Michel Serre’s concept of the parasite (1982), because, as Vaden explained, the algorithm follows the behaviour of competent players without understanding any fundamental information about the stocks, i.e. it simply collects information about the immaterial work of NYSE players. Ana Fradique, an artist and member of the RHC team, commented that the Parasite ‘occupies Wall Street from within’ without demanding the huge amounts of physical and emotional energy that a street-protest movement such as ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demands. The Parasite is deployed and perceived as an alternative to the conventional protest culture: Vaden added that regular citizens are only affected by the downside of financial speculation, and therefore RHC’s objective is to provide some of the upside, following Deleuze and Guattari’s spirit of taking capitalism further as a revolutionary path (Deleuze and Guattari 1972, p. 285). By implementing ‘Parasiting’ without incurring the exhaustion of the conventional protest culture, individuals are granted ‘affective rest’, where they can access the possibility of earning income without putting all their emotional and physical energy to work (Piironen and Virtanen 2015, p. 101). As Vaden confirmed to me, many members described the RHC ethics as the act of ‘transferring money from the dark side to the commons side’. The journey made to cross this boundary, which is narrated and reasoned about philosophically, earmarks a stock market operation as a form of protest.

Expressing the qualitative dimension of numbers
In 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop organized by Senselab in Naples, Italy. The workshop was entitled ‘Finance at the limit: towards the REvaluation of Value’. The participants were mainly activists and researchers, and the workshop included two days of readings and discussions, usually divided into small groups, after an opening conference that was held at the L’Orientale University of Naples. During the opening conference, Senselab explained it was working with blockchain developers to create a cryptocurrency that would capture qualitative value. Inspired by Massumi’s own concept of ‘event derivative’, the idea was that this digital [98] token would represent the value produced by a particular event whose quantifiable effect can only be known in its aftermath (Massumi 2018).

On the second day of the workshop, which was held at a nearby social centre, we played a game called ‘conceptual speed-dating’, which consisted of joining people together in pairs to discuss a two to three page excerpt of Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘War machine’ (1987). After five minutes, the pair would separate and regroup differently. After about four or five rounds, the game came to an end and the entire group gathered together in a large assembly to discuss one particular concept sourced from that excerpt: ‘the numbering number’. Senselab considered this to be an important concept, because, as Manning explained, when Senselab began thinking about cryptocurrencies an enormous panic was ongoing regarding the quantification ‘of the numeric’, dimensions that Senselab had rejected for a long time. Comfort came in the words of one member of Senselab, who said, she recalled, ‘you don’t have to be afraid; a number does not need to be a counting number’. Indeed, counting numbers do not have to be viewed exclusively in quantitative terms, as some authors close to Deleuze have pointed out (Latour and Lépinay 2009, Quattrone 2009). In this case, Senselab intentionally moved away from numbers intended to count and quantify and instead regarded numbers as ‘no longer a means of counting or measuring, but of moving: this is the number itself that moves through space’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 389). In effect, this reframed their approach to numbers in a qualitative manner, sensitive to the use of numbers as code, from measuring scales to computational languages.

Re-interpretation is mobilized here in order to express something new (Didier 2007), for as Massumi told me, Senselab wanted to move away from the existing financial vocabulary, because ‘language is powerful: this is not just knowing different things, it’s knowing differently’. The philosophical re-categorization of ‘the number’ is thus achieved by socializing it with concepts – the ‘moving number’ – that may render it more familiar to particular interlocutors (Seabra Lopes 2011).

A new glossary for a new economy
Following the praxis set out by RHC and its NYSE parasite, the goal of the ECSA team is to take over the stock market’s financial instruments, such as futures or derivatives, and transport them into the decentralized cryptoeconomy. ECSA’s project – which is still under development at the time of writing – proposes to launch a blockchain-based platform where users can programme their own ‘markets’, choosing from a variety of templates for governance structure, cryptocurrency design, smart-contracts, or algorithms. In a broader sense, the ECSA team is aligned with a posthuman perspective about the productive symbiosis of humans and technology in the financialisation process, as long as it grants individuals the control of their own labour and their own data (for a more detailed ethnography of ECSA, see Faustino 2019). During my fieldwork, I witnessed a meeting with a young Singaporean investor who had become wealthy after investing in Bitcoin in its early days. He commented that ECSA’s goals were too ambitious and that they required ‘the best thinkers’, to which Virtanen responded:

We have them all. We have the best financial theorists working in the world, we have political economists (...), the best philosophers alive at the moment. This is our strength, we are very strong in that region. Also in technology. (Akseli Virtanen, Oakland, 10th April, 2017)

Theoretical production was as central to ECSA as was the technical development of their platform. While the coding process was slowly being progressed by a small team of developers, a larger group was primarily committed to crafting the specific vocabulary that would adequately communicate their project in their professional encounters, online presence, technical white papers, or conference interventions. Accordingly, ECSA’s tale was about economic theory and the role of language in the making of economic theory. ECSA was devoted to the creation of new concepts and, as Virtanen told me quoting Deleuze: ‘you recognise a new concept, in that it is a little odd and that it is necessary’. I quickly realized that Deleuze played a significant role in ECSA’s daily ‘glossary’, where the [99] members would commonly refer to their work as being: ‘nomadic’, a ‘deterritorialisation’ of finance, a ‘minor’ work of ‘parasiting’ finance from within, a way of setting the social ‘attractors’ for their own ‘becoming’, and a method for distributing ‘flows of desire’ and of rendering liquid the inherent value of ‘heterogeneity’.

While these concepts were clearly naturalized among the members of the team, they would sometimes get lost in translation when communicated to others. For instance, I had myself become fairly well-acquainted with the fact that ECSA referred to their protocol code as ‘computer fabric’, until I witnessed a Skype meeting with an investor, who replied in confusion: ‘what do you mean by computer fabric?’ and then went on to add that he was ‘troubled’ and could not get his ‘head around’ ECSA, even though he was ‘a sophisticated investor’. Some time after I returned from my fieldwork in Oakland, a popular blockchain investor and entrepreneur posted on Twitter that ECSA was a ‘parody’, given its usage of odd vocabulary, such as ‘economic spacetime’. ECSA posted a reply2 acknowledging its use of ‘ambitious language’, and arguing that a reconfiguration of the technological landscape requires a fruitful use of ‘creative’ and ‘metaphoric’ language, and went on to add – ‘a new world requires new terminology’. Soon after this, ECSA’s website had a glossary section explaining their most daunting concepts, and thus cementing their narrative as a fundamental re-negotiation of existing conceptual economic categories.

How accelerationism matters for fintech
The ethnographic passages in the previous sections identify three ways in which tales re-interpret fintech practices, drawing on Zelizer’s idea of earmarking monnies (1997). Firstly, tales may offer the metaphor of the parasite; in the case of RHC, an algorithm parasites the New York Stock Exchange, which then allows for the transfer of money from the ‘dark side’ to ‘the commons side’. Secondly, tales may invite one to know differently; in the case of Senselab, the tale helps replace the perceived rigidity and austerity of numbers for qualitative attributions of meaning – or to regard them as code. Ambiguity here lies not only in a ‘split sense’, but also in a ‘split reference’ (Ricoeur 2003 [1975]), given that codified numbers are not, indeed, quantitative. Thirdly, tales may offer new linguistic categories; in the case of ECSA, new concepts are created in the wild (Deleuze 2004), mainly through metaphor (Faustino 2019), which suggest the creation of new references in the world – a sort of Deleuzian speculative becoming. In such a process, new categories can either ‘hold up’ (Rorty 1989, Deleuze and Guattari 1994), or they can fail to generate a shared perception, as reflected in some of the reactions to ECSA’s vocabulary.

The attention provided to tales in this paper does not intend to reduce digital engineering to the cultural pervasiveness of rhetoric, neither does it intend to undermine the importance of the larger socio-technical assemblages that foster them. Rather, the intention is to highlight the formation of particular narratives which are related to the current financialisation process that is taking place in cryptoeconomic settings. For just as numbers themselves require a socialization which renders them decipherable and familiar in a particular setting (Seabra Lopes 2011), so do technological endeavours require a socialization with explanatory narratives.

To discuss the larger implications of this, we could end by turning to the wider overarching theme that is present in the tales that mark the projects described above, enamoured by the emerging and extant transdisciplinary debate on accelerationism (Noumena 2011, Noys 2014, Dillet 2015, Williams and Srnicek 2016). Deleuze and Guattari are credited as being the first to explicitly theorize about accelerationism, by advocating for the intensification of capitalism as a revolutionary path (1972). Some contemporary accelerationist thinkers strive for an acceleration towards trans-humanism (Noumena 2011, Goertzel et al. 2017), while others strive to achieve an acceleration beyond capitalism’s own horizon and to move into an alternative modernity (see, for instance, the 2016 Accelerationist Manifesto by Williams and Srnicek). Be that as it may, the Deleuzian motifs described in this paper are symptomatic of a widening social hypothesis: that capitalism may be overthrown through fintech, building on its own metabolism and speed (Williams and [100] Srnicek 2016). The existence of such an hypothesis signals one of the cultures emerging out of fintech: the future scenarios presented by accelerationists, in effect, bring the future into being as a cultural artefact, to be imagined and designed by communities of sentiment (Appadurai 1990, see also Appadurai 1996), forming what Swartz calls ‘transactional communities’ (2020), and what Ricoeur calls ‘narrative identities’ (1988).

If what I have argued so far makes sense, it should be clear by now that the ‘speculative’ has affordances that the ‘performative’ does not necessarily have. It enables the interpretation of the meaning of objects and of their role in the social world in a way that characterizes and even supervises their performative roles. The notion that a narrative does not necessarily lead to any material change but rather facilitates a new interpretation – using an ‘old’ infrastructure while engaging with a ‘new’ narrative – is of importance here, in the sense that it signals how speculation, tale, or text are responsible for re-assigning meaning to objects and events (Ricoeur 1988).

In this sense, and in regards to decentralized finance, we must recall that it emerges in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, as a twist in a plot, pointing towards a solution. Accelerationism is one of the tales we may find circulating among fintech communities working ‘in the wild’ (but certainly not the only one), and proposes that the intensification of finance itself may constitute a viable option to escape the modern crisis of capitalism. However, to avoid the replication of a neo-liberal approach to financial markets, the accelerationist tale employs a metaphorical view of financial practices (Eco 1986, Rorty 1989, Faustino 2019), which ‘reterritorializes’ finance by extending its devices and rationales onto new territories. It thus conceptualizes a path of liberation through financialisation: ‘minor’ investors and users may now claim their share of the economy through machinic alchemy (Noys 2014), while simultaneously pushing financial capitalism beyond its limits, and into a new modernity. If we can argue that the accelerationist culture is anchored in the intensification of fintech, then we might also suggest that fintech plays a key role in the propagation of an accelerationist culture. Further research into emerging narratives of financialisation around decentralized finance might contribute to highlighting the social and cultural dimensions of contemporary fintech, as well as the function of narratives in drawing fintech’s trajectory towards the future.

The current average number of members, according to https://www.robinhoodcoop.org/2.

See ECSA’s full post here: https://medium.com/economic-spacing/glossary-for-gravity-and-space-a8d62f6a2111

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s). Funding

This work was supported by the Portuguese national funding agency for science and technology (FCT) under the project ‘Finance Beyond Fact and Fiction: financial transformations in post-2008 Europe’ [PTDC/IVC-ANT/4520/ 2014].

Notes on contributors
Sandra is a PhD student in Economic Sociology (ISEG-IUL), has a MA in Development Studies (ISCTE-IUL) and a BA in Journalism (ESCS-IPL). She did research on blockchain-based financial technologies within the project ‘Finance Beyond Fact and Fiction: Financial Transformations in Post-2008 Europe’, in the Research Centre in Economic and Organizational Sociology of the Lisbon School of Economics of the University of Lisbon (ISEG/UL) (2016/ 2019). Her main interests are framed by the fields of the social studies of finance and science and technology studies, and concern the political dimensions of technological development.

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