Interview with Professor Dr. Katja Rost from the Institute of Sociology at the University of Zurich.
Suddenly, there are many people who own a house: one person has invested 1000 tokens of 1 franc each, another 50,000 tokens of 1 franc each. In the end, everyone has a share in the house and also receives parts of the rental income as a return. Wine, art or the tokenization of racehorses: They all are also “tokenizable” in this way.
What does the social future look like – is there a threat of social discontent or is tokenization a godsend for society? What changes when society suddenly has a common share in many valuable goods? We interviewed economic sociologist Prof. Dr. Katja Rost from the University of Zurich and asked her about possible social changes.
Professor Dr. Rost, tokenization leads to ownership being distributed – what change in society could this bring about?
First of all, it’s nothing different from the classic corporation: its emergence is based precisely on this idea that individuals need to come together to create something big. For this reason, property is distributed: everyone buys in. This then gave rise to other forms, such as cooperatives. This is based on an analogous principle, but is not listed on the stock exchange.
The fragmentation of valuable goods does not necessarily result in a more social and just togetherness of people. Rather the opposite is the case.Economic sociologist Prof. Dr. Katja Rost, University of Zurich
So do we already know the mechanism?
Tokenization is not changing society at all for now – it is simply a form of participation in a new, modern guise. These days, public limited companies have often become too large and anonymous. Large shareholders dominate. The small shareholder has nothing to say anymore, he is too far away from the daily business. Tokenization enables more participation and control again, since it often concerns smaller valuable goods/companies.
The fact that valuable assets no longer belong to individual (possibly rich) people but also to the “little ones”, how do you assess this?
That has always been the case. The small ones have to join forces because they cannot afford the big picture. It is a form of sharing ownership, even if I have little money. Analogous to the stock funds, in which one may also invest smaller amounts. Of course, it is always better to be a sole owner: One would rather own the entire apartment building instead of just a share. If there are repairs, I alone may decide how expensive it may be, what color the walls get and how environmentally friendly the construction is. I don’t have any coordination costs. That makes life easier ..
How might social behavior change if many people share in the rental income and business success?
We already see this with condominiums: There are often disputes. Especially when it comes to future investments or the use of the property. Cooperatives have formalized the whole thing by allowing buy-in and co-determination. But management also enjoys more decision-making autonomy. In this respect, these examples show that I have to organize coordination and coordination well. Large properties also create many new attack surfaces.
Is the fragmentation of valuable assets to be advocated – does it possibly result in a more social and just togetherness of people?
No – rather the opposite is the case. Property is most cherished when it belongs to me alone. That’s why it often looks so unkempt in socialist countries – hardly anyone takes care of anything. In other words, it could be taken over by the others … If everyone thinks that way, in the end no one takes care of the property anymore. Cohesion erodes accordingly, because everyone wants to participate from the good but not invest in it. Questions of justice also arise: Why is someone allowed to rake in profits even though he has contributed nothing? Social discontent arises
About the personProf. Dr. Katja Rost has been a full professor at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Zurich since 2012. The focus of her work is economic and organizational sociology. She studied sociology at the University of Leipzig, earned her doctorate in economics at the Technical University of Berlin, and completed her habilitation at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zurich. Website Sociological Institute of the University of Zurich Twitter Sociological Institute