Money’s materiality produces an ontological conundrum for social theory: should the analysis of money foreground the objects used as money, or the abstract relations that underpin it? Provoked by the emergence of cryptocurrencies, this paper develops a conceptualization of money as a technological and social infrastructure which directly addresses this theoretical impasse. Cryptocurrencies’ sole form of material existence coincides with their underpinning infrastructure of records, accounting and payments. In the past decade, cryptocurrencies have skyrocketed in number, and they have been applied to a host of use cases. This paper focuses on cross-border payments through the example of the fintech company Ripple, the cryptocurrency XRP, and the design of the XRP Ledger. Combining literatures from the social theory of money, science and technology studies and new materialisms, this article develops steps towards an ecological conceptualization of money infrastructures. Infrastructures, understood ecologically, include devices, active forms, and imaginaries in seamless webs of mutual relations of co-evolution. These ecologies are always potentially prone to slippage, dissolution, disassembling, reassembling and reappropriation, dependence, and competition.
Rella, L. (2020). Steps towards an Ecology of Money Infrastructures: Materiality and Cultures of Ripple. Journal of Cultural Economy, 13(2), 236-249. https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2020.1711532