Bitcoin beyond ambivalence : popular rationalization and Feenberg's technical politics

Redshaw, T ORCID: 2017, 'Bitcoin beyond ambivalence : popular rationalization and Feenberg's technical politics' , Thesis Eleven, 138 (1) , pp. 46-64.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (233kB) | Request a copy


In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin emerged as an alternative monetary system that could circumvent political and financial authorities. A practice in libertarian prefigurative politics, Bitcoin demonstrates the capacity for online subgroups to creatively appropriate internet-based technologies to enact alternative futures. Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology clarifies this capacity and outlines the significance of agency in technical action. As technology mediates many social relations, it has a significant role in the reproduction of social power. Technological agency is therefore a crucial site of resistance in which users can form alternative, democratic rationalisations of technology. Yet are such instances of agency intrinsically democratic? In analysing this aspect of Feenberg’s theory, this article argues that Bitcoin represents a ‘popular rationalisation’ of technology – a creative appropriation of technology that empowers some groups while lacking the ethical justification necessary to be considered democratic.
Key words: Critical theory, technological agency, Bitcoin, blockchain technology.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Journal or Publication Title: Thesis Eleven
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0725-5136
Related URLs:
Depositing User: T Redshaw
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2019 12:57
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2020 08:00

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year