Governance in Blockchain Technologies & Social Contract Theories

Wessel Reijers, Fiachra O'Brolcháin , Paul Haynes

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This paper is placed in a context of a growing number of social and political critiques of blockchain technologies. We focus on the blockchain’s supposed potential to transform political institutions that are central to contemporary human societies, such as money, property right regimes and systems of democratic governance. Our aim is to examine the way blockchain technologies can produce - and justify - new models of governance. To do so, we draw on the philosophical works of Hobbes, Rousseau and Rawls, analyzing blockchain governance in terms of contrasting social contract theories. We begin by comparing the justifications of blockchain governance offered by members of the blockchain developers’ community with the justifications of governance presented within social contract theories. We then examine the extent to which the model of governance offered by blockchain technologies reflect key governance themes and assumptions located within social contract theories, focusing on the notions of sovereignty, initial situation, decentralization and distributive justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-151
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2016


  • social contract theory
  • Hobbes
  • Rousseau
  • Rawls
  • Blockchain

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