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Blow that Mausoleum Down

Bill Maurer (University of California, Irvine, USA)

Defining Web3: A Guide to the New Cultural Economy

ISBN: 978-1-83549-601-5, eISBN: 978-1-83549-600-8

Publication date: 1 July 2024


Drawing on anthropological perspectives, this paper argues that the fungibility of objects and the ability to exchange them for money is a defining characteristic of capitalist markets. In contrast, other systems of reckoning value emphasize the unique relationships within which objects are embedded and their inability to stand for just any other thing. This paper further highlights the role of slavery in the origins and continued dominance of capitalism and the existence of alternative systems such as cooperativism and sharing that are often overlooked. This paper then examines the Saussurean and Peircean semiotics underlying the concept of money as an abstract sign and argues that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in blockchain technology contradict these theories by emphasizing pure uniqueness and rendering objects non-transformable or inconvertible. This paper concludes by warning against the dangers of a future where fungibility is absent, as it is necessary for life and the generation of new and different possibilities.




I would like to thank Quinn DuPont, Donncha Kavanagh, and Tom Boellstorff for comments on earlier versions of this paper, and Quinn DuPont especially for a final round of editing. This paper is based on research supported by the US National Science Foundation under grant number 1455859. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Maurer, B. (2024), "Blow that Mausoleum Down", DuPont, Q., Kavanagh, D. and Dylan-Ennis, P. (Ed.) Defining Web3: A Guide to the New Cultural Economy (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 89), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 199-205.



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Copyright © 2024 Bill Maurer