Protocols for Postcapitalist Expression

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* Book: Protocols for Postcapitalist Expression. Agency, finance and sociality in the new economic space. By Dick Bryan, Jorge López & Akseli Virtanen (ECSA). Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2023



"What would an Internet native economic system look like? Could economic power be systematically shared amongst individuals and their self-defined groups, with no central economic authority? And could that system secure collectively defined social and environmental benefits and create liquidity for their production?

In Protocols for Postcapitalist Economic Expression Bryan, Lopez and Virtanen build the conditions for such a system. Where economic processes are not dictated by profit, what counts as value-creation, and is rewarded by dividends, can be collectively determined by the network. Care, the arts, the environment will not be after-thoughts, to be subsidized by states or the rich: they can be at the core of the economy’s value proposition.

This book develops protocols that can generate all these processes. A blend of theoretical engagement with big economic ideas (Marx, Keynes, Hayek and others), media and information analytics and careful protocol design of token-related processes of distributed exchange, matching, netting and clearing, Protocols systematically builds an alternative to neoliberal capitalism, centrally-planned socialism and reformist social democracy. In an expressive, creative, risk-sharing, data-rich network of investing, producing, exchanging and lending, standard economic propositions get stood on their heads… and new political possibilities emerge.

Bios: The book is a product of research undertaken by the Economic Space Agency (ECSA). Dick Bryan is the Chief Economist at ECSA and an Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. Jorge Lopez is a distributed systems architect and the Lead Architect at ECSA. Akseli Virtanen, D.Sc.(Econ.), is the Co-founder of ECSA, and an Associate Professor at Aalto University."



  • Ch2 From Capitalist to Post-Capitalist Economy: Transcending Hayek and his Digital Disciples video
  • Ch3: Market as a space exchange and a space of communication video
  • Ch5: Stake as the Key to Value
  • Ch6: Synthetic Commons


From the introduction:

"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.