"Provenance is a domain in which blockchain can be, and to some extent already is, primed to serve a purpose that is not exclusively for the benefit or advantage of global financial capital. Although it must be pointed out that this domain is already compromised. In other words, a perverse entrepreneurialism has already begun to capitalize on blockchain provenance. The question, therefore, is whether or not any viable possibility of an open and egalitarian blockchain, counter or post-enclosure, remains?
Provenance, as a general concept, is presently the strongest exemplar of a blockchain use case that is not exclusively geared towards benefiting capitalist modes of production and satisfying the imposition of capitalist property definitions. Provenance is able to hold the exploits of capital to account by creating, among other things, immutable records of commercial supply chains.
As a tool for transparency and provenance blockchain could provide a secure way in which to monitor and check the exploits of global financial capital without having to be subsumed, neck-deep, in it. But, as suggested previously, the pendulum swings both ways. Blockchain transparency and provenance can clearly also strengthen capitalism by painting upon it a trusted and friendly face. Trust thus becomes nothing more than a commercial prosthesis, a marketing strategy for leveraging new markets. Rather than a foundational, first principle of social relations.
In precisely these terms are seeing blockchain provenance drawn into the fashion for “circular economy”. A strategy that allows business to appear to take seriously the need to manage supply chains for the social good through, for example, mitigation of physical waste, as well as waste in terms of time and energy. But while the concept of circular economy appears socially and, perhaps more importantly, ecologically focused, we must not disregard the fact that commercial interests, by and large, begin and end with the company balance sheet. This truism of capitalism underscores the focus on blockchain, largely because blockchain can help lend legitimacy to business practice and thus the exploits of capital. The appearance of blockchain’s “disruptive-ness” provides a tabula rasa, and chance for capital to claim a new saintliness.
Blockchain provenance can be a radical answer to enclosure if it remains in an open and public blockchain able to bring together hard monitoring, recording and reporting of the exploits of capital. At present provenance appears to be heading towards the nonsense of onanistic forms of commercial self-regulation. This will not provide an egalitarian outcome. Capital is not self-correcting; it is self-perpetuating. Thus critical examinations of blockchain are needed to reclaim the initial promise of transparency and those latterly of provenance." (http://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/10/19/anything-disruptive-blockchain-capital-case-fourth-industrial-age-enclosure-part-ii/)
The Social Enterprise
= Social enterprise building a system for product supply chain and lifecycle transparency using the blockchain
Provenance traces the history of an artifact, its processes and inputs, their processes and inputs, etc ...
1. Toby Baker:
"How can we be sure that the products we buy are slavery-free? London-based startup Provenance has adapted blockchain technology to track the supply chains of products.
Blockchain is a digital peer-to-peer ledger that enables you to track products at every stage; you can see everywhere something has been, and everyone who has handled it. Most importantly, because blockchain is peer-to-peer rather than a centrally owned database, it is almost impossible to fake.
As well as shining light on labour practices, blockchain has the potential to boost environmental sustainability by removing the anonymity of materials - from illegally logged Amazonian trees to overfishing in the Indian ocean." (https://digitalsocial.eu/blog/44/workertech-fighting-for-better-work-through-technology)
"Lead by Jessi Baker, Dr Jutta Steiner, these two ladies bring some serious technological chops. Both have a deep understanding of supply-chain engineering and cryptography, which lends well to a very unique perspective on product “proof of existence” and transparency utilizing the blockchain. Provenance is a real-time data platform that empowers brands to take steps toward greater transparency by tracing the origins and histories of products. With their technology you can easily gather and verify stories, keep them connected to physical things and embed them anywhere online." (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-10-blockchain-startups-watch-2016-leaders-who-game-thompson)
"Provenance recently trialled this system in Indonesia, tracking tuna fish from catch to customer. Fishermen using pole and line and handline fishing methods were able to register their daily catch by sending an SMS message from their phones. After that point, Provenance’s blockchain was able to track their fish up to the moment it was purchased.
The Provenance of tuna, backed by blockchain technology, and accessible to actors all along the supply chain.
By providing shoppers with reliable information about the fish available in shops, consumers are empowered to make informed purchasing decisions that support practices that they believe in. In a world in which Indonesia is the biggest producer of tuna, but also where slavery among fishermen is well-documented, this type of information is invaluable." (https://digitalsocial.eu/blog/44/workertech-fighting-for-better-work-through-technology)
A critique of Provenance.org as a neoliberal project
"In the name of “social enterprise” and corporate social responsibility (CSR), however, this concept of provenance has already been compromised through a bridging of commerciality with egalitarian principles. In this spurious concept of free-market fairness we find both a conflicted and watered-down mode of social good.
In their white paper, Provenance.org, who fall into the category of social enterprise, claim that:
- "There is a growing rallying call by customers and governments demanding more transparency from brands, manufacturers, and producers throughout the supply chain. In the UK, 30% of consumers are concerned about issues regarding the origin of products but struggle to act on this through their purchasing decisions. The market for products of proven origin is growing. In the future, regulations like the European directive on non-financial reporting or the UK Modern Slavery Act will require companies to transparently disclose reliable information about their business footprint."
Provenance.org, I argue, precisely advocate for the type of neoliberal values, not least on the front page of their website, which are highly problematic and serve to undermine provenance as a tool to counter the hegemony of global financial capital. Does this perfectly demonstrate how something as vital as provenance can be soured – especially when it comes with a price plan? The concern here is obvious: why leave determinations of the quality of commercial transparency to the very actors who ought ultimately to be being scrutinized? No matter if those interests are related to global multinationals or local entrepreneurial start-ups, the mantra of incessant growth recited by any commercial interest who take seriously their commitments and responsibilities to the cause of capitalism will, indeed must, ultimately see past any and all modes of regulation and critique that threatens their survival. That is the nature of capital." (http://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/10/19/anything-disruptive-blockchain-capital-case-fourth-industrial-age-enclosure-part-ii/)
- white paper on blockchain based open supply chains (based on ethereum ?), via https://www.provenance.org/whitepaper, see Blockchain as Solution for Transparency in Supply Chains