Popular philosopher Slavoj Zizek has sometimes touched on the emancipatory potential of cryptography in the era of digital control, but he is not easily convinced by Bitcoin and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In a recent RT essay, Zizek argued that it was naïve to believe that digital assets bring freedom.
Zizek has placed futuristic technology, including artificial intelligence and the brain-machine interface, under Marxist-Hegelian scrutiny previously in books such as “Hegel in a Wired Brain (2020)” and “Like a Thief in Broad Daylight (2018) “.
His 2020 “Pandemic!” Also brings together cypherpunks like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as a key line of defense against state opacity and high-tech manipulation.
Zizek’s latest editorial, however, falls short of the crypto enthusiasm of his Wikileaks allies who have previously used bitcoin to evade financial censorship.
“The best indication of the changes affecting our financial system is the rise of two new, interrelated phenomena: cryptocurrency and NFTs. Both were born from a libertarian idea to bypass state apparatuses and establish direct communication between the parties concerned, ”he explains.
He goes on to give the classic Marxist explanation of the ideology that “for the system to work, we must remain formally free and perceive ourselves as free”. Zizek says this condition is enabled by bitcoin and NFTs in the name of digital control and manipulation that supports libertarian capitalism.
Continuing his Marxist criticism of digital assets, Zizek argues that NFTs and crypto have no value on their own but instead represent self-referential exchange value and capitalist speculation.
He also criticizes bitcoin mining as a form of mining hierarchy and as an ecological burden on the planet.
“TVNs have no use value”
Marx criticized commodification as the passage of goods from their use value to their exchange value. Zizek noted a similarity between blockchain and the way stocks are valued:
“However, one difference is that – at least in principle – the value of stocks is not purely self-referential, it refers to investments that are supposed to generate profits from ‘real’ production.
What’s intriguing about NFTs is the idea of taking a digital asset that anyone can copy and claim ownership of it. A DTV has almost no use value (perhaps it brings some social prestige to owners), and what sustains it is its potential future exchange value. It is a copy with a price, a purely symbolic property object that can bring in profit.
“The main Hegelian idea here – just like in the case of bitcoin – is that although bitcoin and NFTs appear to be an anomaly, a pathological deviation from the ‘normal’ functioning of money and commodities, both effectively realize a potential that is already contained in the very notion of commodity and money, ”he argued.
Switzerland-based crypto insider and co-founder of Castello Coin, Sven Wenzel, responded to Zizek, in an interview with BeInCrypto:
“Zizek’s comments on the environmental impact of proof of work fines are fair, but many other important technologies are also energy intensive. In addition, renewable energy sources for mining are increasingly used in industry – just look at El Salvador’s decision to mine Bitcoin from its volcanoes, ”he said. declared.
Wenzel argued that it can also be said that traditional central bank backed money lacks inherent value as bitcoin derives its value from community values.
“In addition to being a store of value, bitcoin is a social movement; its value is derived from the community’s belief in the power of a hard, censorship-resistant form of internet money, ”he said.
“NFTs can also be seen as a cryptocurrency, especially powerful for creators looking to monetize their medium. Thanks to NFTs, digital artists, musicians and other artists have been able to place a value on their work like never before. As we have seen, they exploded in popularity last year. The community’s belief in the technology is sufficient proof of its value, ”Wenzel added.
Crypto enthusiasts seek to own capitalism, not end it
While Zizek’s Marxist intervention alludes to the failure of cryptocurrency as a radical alternative to money, it does not offer a different solution to the problems of financial censorship and government authority. State addressed by Bitcoin and its derivatives.
Zizek’s rejection of crypto highlights the cracks in the digital left and the cultural left. After a century of Marxist sentiment made possible by the highly capitalist infrastructure it claims to be fighting, new left-wing romantics and revolutionaries, including crypto enthusiasts and pop supporters of the NFTs, perhaps claiming the goal is n ‘ is not to end capitalism but to own it.
Adam Jeffcoat, CEO and founder of StudioNX, an NFT-focused project, told BeInCrypto that Zizek’s argument that “crypto is just a vehicle for speculation is not entirely false.”
“As this asset class is still in its infancy, early adopters are placing their bets on where they think the technology could go – often in the hope of getting rich,” he said, adding:
More than just a speculative asset class, crypto combines philosophy and politics. For its most ardent supporters, this is a vote against the traditional financial system that has blocked so many people for millennia. Even today, in many countries, the general population does not have access to a bank account. But bitcoin and other assets are completely unlicensed – anyone with an internet connection can participate.
Blockchain has its flaws as a radical alternative to the traditional idea of money and property, but its democratic infrastructure is a good starting point for conscientious progress.
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