Fully-automated liberalism? Blockchain technology and international cooperation in an anarchic world

Reinsberg, B. (2021) Fully-automated liberalism? Blockchain technology and international cooperation in an anarchic world. International Theory, 13(2), pp. 287-313. (doi: 10.1017/S1752971920000305)

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A recent wave of scholarship attests that the liberal world order is under threat. Although there is disagreement about the underlying reasons for this diagnosis, there are few attempts to further our understanding of how the liberal order can be reinvigorated. This paper probes the potential of blockchain technology to promote international cooperation. Blockchain technology is a data structure that enables global governance stakeholders to establish decentralized governance systems which provide high-powered incentives for enhanced cooperation. By outlining the contours of a blockchain-based global governance system for climate policy, the paper illustrates that blockchain technology holds theoretical promise to foster cooperation in three ways: leveraging new sources of information through blockchain-based prediction markets; allaying coordinating problems through reducing the cost of transactions for side payments; and allowing states and other global governance actors to make more credible commitments given guaranteed execution of blockchain-enabled smart contracts. By empowering local knowledge holders and non-state actors that traditionally lacked the means to coordinate efforts to influence global politics, blockchain technology also promises to advance an international order based on liberal values. In actuality, however, emerging blockchain-based global governance systems will fall short of the libertarian ideal of ‘fully-automated liberalism’ as their design and operation will remain under the shadow of power.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Reinsberg, Dr Bernhard
Authors: Reinsberg, B.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:International Theory
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN (Online):1752-9727
Published Online:05 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s), 2020
First Published:First published in International Theory 13(2): 287-313
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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