An engaging and comprehensive exploration of how fundamental ideas in political and legal thought shape the governance of blockchain communities, and are, in turn, shaped by blockchain technology.
How can digital cash truly be “trustless”? What does it mean that blockchain offers a new paradigm of the “rule of code”? How are decisions made when a blockchain system faces an emergency, and who gets to make those decisions? In Blockchain Governance, Primavera De Filippi, Wessel Reijers, and Morshed Mannan offer answers to these questions and more, in an accessible, critical overview of legal and political issues related to blockchain technology, now the foundation of a multi-billion-dollar industry. Moving beyond the hype, they show how blockchain offers fertile ground for experimentation with radically new ways to govern people and institutions.
Blockchain-based systems, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tezos, and countless others, offer new ways of organizing digital cash, “smart” contracts to execute transactions, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to collect art, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to coordinate humans and machines. What these applications have in common is that they govern the behavior of people and artificial agents through distributed systems. Drawing from their extensive experience in researching blockchain technologies and communities, the authors discuss the origins of Bitcoin in cypher-anarchism and extropianism, spectacular events like the million-dollar theft of the DAO Attack, and the hostile takeover of the Steem platform. While engaging with political and legal thinkers such as Hobbes, Kelsen, and the Ostroms, these narratives explore how blockchain governance problematizes fundamental concepts such as rule of law, sovereignty, legality, legitimacy, and polycentric governance.
Primavera De Filippi is Research Director at the National Center of Scientific Research in Paris, and Faculty Associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. She is the coauthor of Blockchain and the Law.
Wessel Reijers is Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Vienna. He is the author of Narrative and Technology Ethics and coeditor of the edited volume Interpreting Technology.
Morshed Mannan is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute. He is the coeditor of Log Out: A Glossary of Technological Resistance and Decentralization, coauthor of the COALA DAO Model Law, and coauthor of Freedom of Establishment for Companies in Europe.