Pascal Witzig

Thèse de doctorat

Assessing blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies from a territorial point of view

Since the breakneck rise in price of bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have gained a lot of media attention. Indeed, cryptocurrencies do offer a number of interesting potential applications, such as low-fee crossborder transactions, the „banking of the unbanked“ in poor countries or a hedge against inflation, to name but a few.

 

In the same time, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies - the blockchain - is receiving significantly less attention. This obscures the fact that blockchain technology might be employed in a variety of other fields than banking, such as supply chain-management, insurance, the gig/sharing-economy etc. 

 

This new and innovative technology opens up the doors to a whole variety of new challenges and opportunities. In our dissertation, we are going to consider from a territorial point of view some potential applications of blockchain technology and the question they raise. With other words: we’re interested in the intersection of blockchain-technology and territoriality. 

 

Our thesis will be comprised of three articles:

 

A first article seeks to reconsider the Global production network (GPN)-framework. This framework allows conceptualizing linkages, power and structure in globalized production, however it has turned a blind eye on digital technologies, on which these GPN crucially rely. A case study of blockchain-technology used in the supply-chain of pharmaceutical products will aim to shed light on this neglected dimension. 

 

A second article is interested in one of the areas of conflict between the national state and crypto-moneys. In fact, due to its pseudonymous nature, crypto-moneys facilitate tax-evasion, money laundering and other illegal activities. Unlike national moneys, Crypto-moneys are not tied to a physical territory: they are circulating in an extra-territorial space and in many cases, no-one controls them. Are crypto-moneys therefore new non-physical tax havens? How are states coping with this challenge? Can a nation state’s territoriality extend into a virtual space without a clear-cut territorial anchoring? 

 

Finally, a third article will strive to evaluate whether crypto-moneys could replace traditional regional money systems. A regional money system based upon distributed ledger technology might be cheaper to acquire and easier to maintain, than a traditional regional money system. Furthermore, thanks to „smart-contracts“, regions could set incentive structures, that help to contribute to the preservation of a common good. Could such a system potentially work? How should it be governed? And are there ethical concerns? 

Interests of research

  • Blockchain Technology
  • Digital currencies
  • Local currencies
  • Theories of regional development
  • Economic sociology
  • Economic geography

Teaching

  • Introduction to economic sociology
  • Critical approaches to globalization
  • Research seminar: Innovation, economy and society. 

Contact

Institut de sociologie
Faubourg de l'Hôpital 27
2000 Neuchâtel

Bureau 207
Tél. +41 32 718 16 11
Courriel Pascal Witzig