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The decentralized evolution of decentralization across fields: from Governance to Blockchain

by   Gabriele Di Bona, et al.

Decentralization is a widespread concept across disciplines such as Economics, Political Science and Computer Science, which use it in distinct but overlapping ways. Here, we investigate the scholarly history of the term by analysing 425k academic publications mentioning (de)centralization. We reveal that the fraction of papers on the topic has been exponentially increasing since the 1950s, with 1 author in 154 contributing to a paper on (de)centralization in 2021. We then cluster papers using both semantic and citation information and show that the topic has independently emerged in different fields, while cross-disciplinary contamination started only more recently. Finally, focusing on the two most prominent clusters by number of papers and influence, we show how Blockchain has become the most influential field about 10 years ago, while Governance dominated before the 1990s, and we characterize their interactions with other fields. Our results add a quantitative dimension to the history of a key yet elusive concept. Furthermore, the introduced framework is general and our publicly


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