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Christopher Lawrence


  • MA, Sociology, California State University, Northridge
  • BA, Creative Writing, San Francisco State University


Though the look of paper and metal money in the United States has changed modestly in the last few decades--think commemorative quarters and the rollback of the two-dollar banknote--a large, centralized machinery is working to ensure that the U.S. dollar is as stable as possible. Like oil, sugary drinks, and social media data, currency is a good that can be bought and sold on the marketplace. But like any good, currencies face competition. Until recently, economic superpowers such as the United States, China, and Germany have successfully resisted competitors in the form of alternative currencies. (Germany, for example, has even opted into a supranational currency, the euro.)

Enter bitcoin...and ethereum, Monero, Litecoin, and about 80 other virtual currencies. Constituting a $30 billion market, these are currencies that circulate without the legal backing or oversight of a national government. Further, rather than being managed by a private organization, the sole operators are the users themselves, who effectively run a system of exchange on open-source software.

My current project recognizes the tension between state and non-state actors over a good--currency--that has been the province of government for centuries. As bitcoin flourishes and becomes a viable medium to purchase goods and services both online and off, why are various countries reacting in different ways? Why is Germany receptive to currency competition, but Russia hostile? And why in the U.S. do various agencies adopt different stances toward virtual currencies over time?

Do you ever wish you could create money out of thin air? Apparently you can do this now.

Subfields of study: economic sociology, political economy, science and technology studies

Specific topics of study: money, the state, decentralization, automation of finance

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