Bitcoin is not about money–it’s about power. Bitcoin is a political force, technological ideal, and mode of economic independence for the internet itself. Using Louis Althusser’s concepts of ideology and ideological state apparatuses from, “On the Reproduction of Capitalism” we can analyze bitcoin and the internet as as anti-state ideological apparatus.
Here is an excellent introduction to Althusser’s concepts and an explanation of what exactly is ideology, ideological apparatuses(IA), and repressive state apparatuses (RSA) are. In his work, Althusser offers a powerful way of understanding the organizations of capitalism. He shows how various ideological apparatuses operate in conjunction with repressive state apparatuses to create, organize, reinforce, and reproduce the conditions of society today to serve the current capitalist paradigm through the state.
For our purposes we can apply this same logic to understand where the internet fits into the capitalist society. From this we will see how paired with the power of bitcoin, and other digital currencies may develop.
The Internet as an Anti-State Ideological Apparatus
The Internet is a new territory, and today is controlled by States for the use of capitalism; but they are quickly loosing control. This occurred by design as the internet grew from the small U.S. government project it once was; and developed into the global world wide web it is today. Today they internet rivals G7 states in terms of its population, GDP, and most importantly its ideological norms.
Though there are many internet cultural groups today, the original ‘internet culture’ would be the cypherpunks. From the cypherpunks came publications like, “Security without Identification: Transaction Systems to Make Big Brother Obsolete” wrote in 1985. Even before the world wide web existed, the anti-state principals of the digital movement were already entrenching themselves.
Those involved in the cypherpunk movement would later go on to write the declaration of independence of cyberspace, and would help advance the internet at every new crossroads it came to. This early vanguard of the internet operated on tenacious, uncompromising principals of freedom of information, communication, and the right to privacy. These ideas imbued themselves into the internet and became an ideological backbone that allows for the open web to function.
The Internet is antithetical to the State.In this realm people can create new identities that could not exist within the physical realm.We given the right to developed our voices and identities free from the constraints of the panoptic police state. Our physical bodies no longer constrain our ideals; we have moved beyond being mere sinew and flesh and into the Noosphere. Here exist a mode of communication where we are stripped of our human bodies and become only the political body of the words and information that we convey here. Our names, national identities, religions, educations, and every other form of inscription that we are subjugated within contemporary society are secondary within the internet.
The identities that we are allowed to created for ourselves on the internet, unmolested by the forceful ideology of the various state apparatuses and under the guise of anonymity; we become more than mere objects to be subjugated to the desires of a capitalist society. We are allowed an entire universe where we can choose who to become, and to seek out the information we desire to know. Everything that defines us as subjects, and the territory of physical space that we occupy becomes secondary. Our physical bodies cannot exist within this medium; nor is it definitive of who we are in this space–we are truly free here. These are the murmurs of the new class consciousness that is forming inside of the internet itself, and it cannot be stopped.
Althusser believed that the education was the most powerful ideological apparatus that there was. Education as an institution is a tool exclusively owned by the ruling classes explicitly to control the dialog of what is knowledge and what is education. The so-called fields of factual hard sciences focus their narrow pursuits in the name of capitalism, to the same degree that fields like history, economics, and political science seek to justify the capitalist world we live in. What is considered ‘education’ becomes part of a great dialog that is no longer about facts, critical think skills, and self-empowerment; but learning obedience as truth.
This has profound and far-reaching ramifications when we consider that scientific knowledge is the bases of power in a advance technological capitalist society such as ours. With unrestricted, unfettered access to information, along with the assurance of what one is search for and coming to understand is private; one is freed from the ideological chains of the system that controls every aspect of lives. Here it is possible to develop one’s own truth without the taint of capitalism– we can form truths of the world from our own standpoint without fear from of the panoptic police state watching us.
Education as Ideological Entrenchment of Capitalism
The internet stands in direct contrast to the educational establishment and its ideology. The education establishment is reliant on authoritarian knowledge official, state-sanctions communication channels (teachers, libraries, degree programs, etc.). Whereas the internet is antithetical to that. There are no minders or masters to deem what is appropriate ‘knowledge’–only facts that present themselves for what they are.
This implies that ‘education’–or the acquisition of knowledge via the internet–is something that must be done autodidactically. One must disseminate information for oneself, and to compare and contrast sources to discover the difference between what is ideology, and what is fact. This can only be done alone, and using one’s own faculties.
The Internet is an endless well of information for those who seek it. There are no minders or masters to approve of fact which establish themselves by the truth of their being, rather than the sanction from official sources. This destroys the ideological monopoly that education institutes have on the source for knowledge, which can call the paradigm of classic education institutes, and their relationship with capitalism. The impact of this is not unlike the Protestant Reformation challenging what was the authoritative source for knowledge.
Through the domination and monopolization of ‘what is knowledge’ vis-a-vis educational institutions, there is a wicked contortion of knowledge. Knowledge is no longer fact, but idology. This is reinforced repeatedly incessantly to such an extent that one becomes confused between what they know to be true for themselves, and what one has simply been told so much, that one believe that to be true.
Money as an Ideological Apparatus
So how does this all relate to bitcoin and money? Money as a concept is deeply, deeply embedded into us as a ideology and religion. Due to the constant bombardment of misinformation about how money works, from all ideological state apparatuses (media, school, work, etc.); money becomes a very complex and convoluted topic. Due to all of these various influences, money ends up taking on its own mystical weight, and becomes a powerful ideological component of the current economy paradigm.
Through the education system we are taught that governments are good, and the world works the way it does for good reason. We learn from this system that economist can explain why the economy functions as it does, and why we all must work hard to take home our day’s pay. Included in this ideology is the notion that our noble business leaders, who lift the world upon their shoulders, are entitled to a king’s share of the wealth for directing his firm to make a profit; even if this is at the expense of many.
This ideology serves to alienate and divorce economics from its original purpose as part of philosophy. Today almost all economist are exclusively modern monetary theorist who are heavily relent upon complex mathematical modules to explain economics. Any economist who does not accept the concept of seigniorage as fact, are simply disposed of as not being ‘real’ economist. From the get-go, we are taught to believe in the righteousness the economic system and to not question it on a fundamental level.
This is how government are able to control the money supply and keep huge portions of the globe under the despotism of poverty without anyone blinking. We have been taught to believe that capitalism in its current form, backed by the state, is the only way to organize the economically and politically. We have been told that money functions perfectly being controlled by bankers and the state, despite all factual evidence against it.
Bitcoin as an Anti-State Liberative Apparatus
Due to the influence of the internet, and the way that people use it to discover information for themselves; there is an autonomous space for an non-state money to exist. Bitcoin is the antithesis of both repressive state apparatuses and ideological apparatuses.
The main purpose of bitcoin is to act as the central bank of the internet. Like the Internet, bitcoin is distributed, decentralized, and ran by a protocol which allows for communication anywhere in the world. Its first and primary economic loyalty is to the internet itself–no internet, no bitcoin. Its secondary function is one that represents the ideology of the internet itself.
Digital currencies are revolutionary because they were built with revolutionary ideology at their core. Bitcoin is money built for the internet, and the internet alone. There were plenty of other digital monies that came before bitcoin, they died because they did not have the capacity to stand against the state. Bitcoin was built on top of strong crypto because Satoshi knew that if any money for the internet were to truly gain traction, it would become the implicit enemy of any and all states.
What I find the most fascinating about this ideological function of bitcoin, is that it uses the logical exploit of capitalism, and how capitalism holds the sanctity of itself (capital) above all else (or as Marx put it, the valorization of value) to turn capitalism against the state. Through removing money from the hands of the repressive state apparatus of banking, bitcoin makes money more effective than it has ever been.
Bitcoin can do this not because of the powerful ideological argument it offers, but because of its economic efficiency over other moneys. Bitcoin and other digital currenices have the capacity to take on all of the economic roles that the states, and can do it for a fraction of the cost.
As we catapult into this brave new world, we will find that other ideological apparatuses will slowly change their perspective about bitcoin. This will not be because there will be some radical awakening to understand money; but rather the reproductive purposes of capitalism will fulfill the role that Althusser predicted it would. The capitalist paradigm will shift from that of being in alliance with the state, to being in conflict with the state. And this will be because the state itself will become inefficient to the service of capitalism via the internet, and thus can be disposed of like everything else that does not serve capitalism.
As bitcoin gains more economic power, it will also gain political, and ideological power. It will utilize this base of power to pull back the veil of corruption and expose the powers that be for the banality that they are. Another world is being build where the State is not allowed, nor any of the ideological apparatuses that serve it.