Blockchains and the “Chains of Empire”: Contextualizing Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Neoliberalism in Puerto Rico
Although blockchain is often posed as a revolutionary and disruptive technology, its politics and socio-technical configurations often align with aims to maintain the status quo, and/or aims to concentrate wealth and to make existing powers more efficient. I empirically describe how colonial-contingent, neoliberal economic policies in Puerto Rico have incentivized the techno-capitalist industries of cryptocurrency and blockchain. Portions of the archipelago are being re-made into a so-called “crypto-utopia” to satisfy the desires of new settlers in a new form of crypto-colonialism. Puerto Rican government organizations, institutions, and businesses are also engaging blockchain technology with differing intents, all using rhetoric as a covert design tool. In this paper I will focus on blockchain and cryptocurrency as neoliberal and libertarian technologies adopted by governmental agencies, businesses, organizations, and individuals, as well as efforts of resistance through alternative, decolonial design.