Tokens:The Future of Money in the Age of the Platform

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The essential guide to this new landscape of NFTs, Web3, Crypto and DAOs and a warning of the political consequences of what happens when platform capitalism comes for the money in your pocket.

**Longlisted for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year**

Wherever you look, money is being re- placed by tokens. Digital platforms are issuing new kinds of money-like things: phone credit, shares, gift vouchers, game tokens, customer data—the list goes on. But what does it mean when online platforms become the new banks? What new types of control and discrimination emerge when money is tied to specific apps or actions, politics or identities?

Tokens opens up this new and expanding world. Exploring the history of extra- monetary economies, Rachel O’Dwyer shows that private and grassroots tokens have always haunted the real economy. But as the large tech platforms issue new money-like instruments, tokens are suddenly everywhere. Amazon’s Turk workers are getting paid in gift cards. Online streamers trade in wishlists. Foreign remittances are sent via phone credit. Bitcoin, gift cards, NFTs, customer data, and game tokens are the new money in an evolving economy. It is a development challenging the balance of power between online empires and the state. Tokens may offer a flexible even subversive route to compensation. But for the platforms them- selves they can be a means of amassing frightening new powers.

An essential read for anyone concerned with digital money, inequality, and the future of the economy.


  • Rachel O'Dwyer offers an introduction to the politics of modern tech darlings: from cryptocurrency to Web3. [Tokens] explores the future of money, which O'Dwyer points out is increasingly "being replaced by tokens", and questions what it means when digital platforms become the new banks. While these tokens offer new types of relationships, ownership, and governance, O'Dwyer warns that they also usher in novel forms of surveillance and discipline.

    Brit Dawson, All the best books to look forward to in 2023GQ
  • Rachel O'Dywer takes us on a fascinating and important journey into the vast realm of hidden currencies that operate in the shadows of mainstream money systems. She shows how unorthodox tokens have been enlisted by those seeking emancipation, but rather than uncritically praising them as breakthrough innovations, she also skillfully draws out the deep ambiguities inherent within them: powerful corporate players are quick to take advantage of the grey area on the edge of standard monetary systems to accumulate more profit and data. A must read for anyone exploring the politics of Big Tech and Big Finance.

    Brett Scott, author of Cloud Money
  • No one has done more thoughtful research or has more nuanced takes than Rachel O'Dwyer. She mercilessly cuts through the hype and yet leaves room for hope.

    Lana Swartz, author of New Money