This is an interesting article sent in by Gary Glennon-Alty. After a preliminary read my problem with it is that it seems to be characterised by an underlying assumption that the fundamental building block of society is the autonomous individual.

Indeed, it could be argued that all liberal philosophers since Hobbes have been concerned with countering his conclusion that the only way of resolving the war of all against all is to create a kind of meta-individual in which we voluntarily submit to a sovereign (Leviathan). It might be argued that the liberal egalitarianism of Rawls is an attempt to answer the challenge of socialism but in no sense does he abandon the priority of the individual – indeed, no socialist would be allowed behind the ‘veil of ignorance’.

It’s true that Rousseau does attempt to articulate a sense of the ‘common good’ governed by a the ‘general will’ but the latter is itself a self-governed meta-individual, rather than a true collective. By ‘collective’ I mean a group that includes at least a degree of lateral organisation which is characterised neither by the homogeneity of the meta-individual nor the disintegration envisaged by Hobbes in which, as the Leveller Winstanley out it, ‘the great Creator Reason, made the Earth to be a Common Treasury’.

Furthermore, there is a case to be made, as Jeremy Gilbert has, that Neoliberalism harks back to Hobbes, skipping over all those attempts to ameliorate his worst conclusions, and replacing his vertical control as exemplified by the Leviathan with a much more sophisticated but no less powerful hegemony. The main difference that, rather than voluntarily submitting to its rule we have become sucked into an all-consuming ideology which can brook no dissent because it is assumed be as natural as the air we breathe – a kind of natural law, opposition to which is seen to be a sort of madness or immaturity.

I realise that the authors of the essay acknowledge the fact that blockchain technology is not politically neutral and that their analysis is filtered only through a limited prism of contract theory. At the same time they don’t appear to have any sense that there might be an alternative view to that of methodological individualism or that Neoliberalism has strong parallels to the Hobbesian Leviathan. So, for anyone interested in any form of communitarianism, I cannot see how blockchain technology holds any interest – at least not in the way that it is analysed by the authors.


Dickie Bellringer