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1. Introduction
1.1 Contesting the current order

1.2 What does the future hold?

1.3 A new economic space; new economic performances

1.4 A note on terminology

1.5 Capitalist and postcapitalist finance

1.6 The immediate proposal: Living in the spread

Appendix 1.1 Design Principles of the Economic Space Protocol

Appendix 1.2 Some key distinctions between the Economic Space Protocol and other paradigmatic blockchain architectures

2. From Capitalist to Postcapitalist Economy
2.1 Designing an economy

2.2 An economic primer

2.3 The Hayekian turn: knowledge, price and spontaneous order

2.4 Hayek’s dead end

2.5 Prices freed from profit

2.6 Turning Hayek on his head

2.7 Implication

3. Framing the Economic Space Protocol: Markets as Communication Networks
3.1 Introduction

3.2 Agents and markets

3.3 Economic space

3.4 Tokens and distributed ledgers

3.5 Ways of ‘pricing’

3.6 Peer-to-peer; decentralized to distributed

3.7 Social objectives

3.8 Governance

3.9 The tools to reframe

4. Production as Performance
4.1 Background

4.2 Performing relations

4.3 Protocols of performance

4.4 Performance indices and value measures

4.5 A ‘value theory of performance’

Appendix 4.1 A performance evaluation framework

Appendix 4.2 Performances (P) and their outputs (C)

5. Stake: the Key to Value
5.1 Introduction

5.2 The circular logic of reciprocal staking

5.3 Returns to stakeholding

5.4 Staking and the network: a summary and a projection

Appendix 5.1 Fundamental value and speculation: Keynes’ beauty contest
Appendix 5.2 Dividends and the surplus

6. The Commons
6.1 Finding the commons

6.2 Reciprocal staking forms the ‘synthetic commons’

6.3 ‘Dividends’ as the common purpose

6.4 The commons as a process of redistribution

7. Postcapitalist units of measurement
7.1 Introduction

7.2 Measurement categories for the Economic Space Protocol

7.3 A postcapitalist unit of value

7.4 Conclusion: basic categories

8. Liquidity and Credit
8.1 Introduction

8.2 The general conditions of distributed credit issuance

8.3 Stake as collateral: the foundation of credit

8.4 Network recognition of credit and credit settlement

8.5 Implications

Appendix 8.1 Keynes on money and credit

9. Exchange Relations Expressed through Tokens
9.1 Context

9.2 Reciprocal issuance: offers and matching

9.3 Netting and clearing

9.4 Economies enabled by protocols

Appendix 9.1 Tokens and network derivatives

10. Tokens and Ledgers
10.1 Introduction

10.2 Stake tokens

10.3 Liquidity tokens

10.4 Commodity tokens

10.5 Exchanges between tokens

10.6 Three token categories to serve three economic functions

11. Dynamics of a tokenized network
11.1 Three circuits of value

11.2 The performance circuit: the circuit of value creation

11.3 The collateral circuit: the circuit of growth

11.4 The credit circuit: the circuit of stability

11.5 Significance

12. Stability, Volatility, Value
12.1 Stability

12.2 Outside currency within the network

12.3 Volatility

Appendix 12.1 Tokenized value: simple and expanded

Appendix 12.2 MV=PQ: An application to the Economic Space Protocol token logic

13. The Conditions of a Digital Postcapitalist Economy
13.1 Introduction

13.2 Network value

13.3 Where to from here?

Listen to chapter 1:

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1Inspirational Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm (1978) contended that the 1970s must be read as a crisis for working class organizations; a crisis from which it has not recovered. Our response is that collective endeavors that move beyond the control of capital must be focussed at the frontier of capitalist development – financial innovation – not in nostalgia for a resurgent industrial proletariat.
2“If we don’t do this, we may not have an economy on Monday” is a statement attributed to Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke in a meeting on Thursday September 18, 2008 with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in his advocacy of a $700 billion bailout plan for banks. original article
3Financial institutions in the period 2020-2022 might be depicted as financial terrorists, with sticks of illiquidity strapped to their chests, threatening to blow themselves up, and taking the rest of us with them, unless the state guaranteed market liquidity. And states gave those terrorists exactly what they wanted. The terrorist ransom payment is better known as Quantitative Easing, and because of it, the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve (to reference just one index) reached $8.9 trillion by mid 2022, up from $0.9 trillion in 2007, $2.3 trillion in December 2008, and $4.2 trillion in February 2020.


Agency, finance and sociality
in the new economic space

Dick Bryan, Jorge López & Akseli Virtanen


1.1 Contesting the current order

Despite a deepening climate disaster, consecutive global economic crises and a socially devastating pandemic, the last two decades have found us living in an era of capitalist triumphalism. In almost all capitalist countries, political leaders celebrate their achievements in promoting economic growth and stock market record highs while ‘successfully managing’ wage growth. State ‘reforms’ of all kinds have seen growing precarity of those whose living standard is low and growing wealth and security for those at the top. Indeed increasing inequality seems to be the current engine of economic growth and it is only in the very recent past that concerns for the biosphere have looked like a constraint on that momentum.

Economically and politically, if we want to build postcapitalism, we must start by recognising this power of finance and challenge it by building a different finance. The ultimate goal is an economy of production, animated by alternative social and ethical values, and the starting point is finance.1

Finance is both dynamic and fragile. In its current dominant form, it goes to where the profits are greatest, but it instantly retreats when the profits are not appearing. So it is a direct discipline on those who need finance: they must deliver profits, or they suffocate.

But its liquidity and mobility is also its vulnerability, for it depends critically on the state to provide it with a money instrument and to underwrite its social reputation and its profit. The US-initiated sub-prime crisis of 2007-2008 and, even more emphatically, the 2020s Covid pandemic have revealed how the fast and free movement of finance can undermine its own conditions of existence. In both periods we have seen nation states (predominantly through their central banks) having to throw money at financial markets to secure liquidity and sustain financial market profits. In 2008, the US Federal Reserve Chairman argued behind closed doors that the state has to do whatever it takes to preserve financial market profits or economic disaster would follow.2 By 2020, the financial institutions were themselves confidently asserting the demand for the state to guarantee their profitability.3

Our project is to design a network where participants:

  • interact in the creation of new outputs (not simply gambling on price movements);
  • communicate in the determination of what is deemed value-creating (not driven by private appropriation of profit);
  • coordinate the assemblage of production (not corporate)
  • bind in the building of a commons (not individualistic), and
  • launch the capacity to scale and reproduce in sustainable ways (not reliant on on-going injections of external funding).

We cannot, and should not, pre-determine the outputs that people produce, nor what constitutes value or the content of the commons. The people who have participated in building the Economic Space Protocol outlined in this document all have views about what sorts of outcomes we would personally like to see, but it is critical that these are not predetermined in protocol design: that distributed network interactions and not a central authority coordinates network development. That’s why we frame our work as a political project as well as a project of network design.

1.2 What does the future hold?

Blockchain-based innovations for economic and financial design are evolving rapidly. Most recently, DAOs, DeFi, stablecoins, DEXs, liquidity farming, NTF markets and creator and community tokens offer expansive new possibilities. But what will be the next frontier; the next big development?

What does history suggest?

By today’s standards, history moved in slow motion. It records that money, roughly as we now know it, dates from about the 7th century BC. Recognizably modern banking developed in the Northern Italian coastal cities of Florence, Venice and Genoa in the 14th century, driven by the funding requirements of long-distance trade. This banking evolved over the next few centuries from funding commerce to funding the rise of industrial production, and a system we call capitalism. The formation of joint stock companies and a liquid stock exchange in the mid 19th century transformed ownership of capital to decentralized protocols, though the division between ownership and management served to re-centralize the control. This is the corporate capitalism we know today.

In cryptohistory, that long evolution looks like it is happening over little more than a decade. Bitcoin as a new, distinctive p2p form of money arrived in 2009, with DeFi (decentralized finance, or banking protocols) becoming prevalent a decade later; funding new kinds of distributed exchange and money games. Governance mechanisms of DAOs and in-house treasury functions, broadly replicating the roles of the corporate form, followed immediately afterwards. History would say that these developments must surely evolve to the funding of a new era of production as its next logical step. But that next step is yet to emerge, and its possible shape is still unclear.

It is already clear this future will be ‘post-industrial’, with information at the center, as both its predominant input and output. But what will be its social shape; what technical capacities and social relations will it build upon? There are two complementary, contemporary developments that are critical: distributed money and the iteration of the Internet that brings decentralization back into its heart; also known as Web3 or the Economic Web.


2.1 Designing an economy

Is cryptoeconomy just a refinement and acceleration of a capitalist economy or can it create new economic space? It could be either or, indeed, both. The platforms that utilize blockchain and cryptographic technologies can be placed at the service of values that are essentially capitalist, or postcapitalist protocols that are conceived more cooperatively and commons-oriented – designed around shared aspirations, financial innovation and risking together. The technology permits both capitalist and postcapitalist versions to be designed centrally or in a distributed way. Importantly, framed this way, the postcapitalist agenda can be seen as no less practicable than a formally designed, distributed capitalism, and we can provide a clear depiction of the difference between the two. In both cases, there are cost and speed advantages of cryptoeconomic platforms because of the absence of need for central clearing houses, and we already see large corporations and states adopting the technology for fast, reliable, low cost and accurate record keeping. But there is a politics here, too. The emergence of central bank digital currencies is a stark statement. It is not essential for states to digitally replicate their current money, but they realize they need a foothold in the space of crypto.