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Access_open Fostering Worker Cooperatives with Blockchain Technology: Lessons from the Colony Project

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 3 2018
Keywords blockchain, collaborative economy, cooperative governance, decentralised governance, worker cooperatives
Authors Morshed Mannan
AbstractAuthor's information

    In recent years, there has been growing policy support for expanding worker ownership of businesses in the European Union. Debates on stimulating worker ownership are a regular feature of discussions on the collaborative economy and the future of work, given anxieties regarding the reconfiguration of the nature of work and the decline of standardised employment contracts. Yet, worker ownership, in the form of labour-managed firms such as worker cooperatives, remains marginal. This article explains the appeal of worker cooperatives and examines the reasons why they continue to be relatively scarce. Taking its cue from Henry Hansmann’s hypothesis that organisational innovations can make worker ownership of firms viable in previously untenable circumstances, this article explores how organisational innovations, such as those embodied in the capital and governance structure of Decentralised (Autonomous) Organisations (D(A)Os), can potentially facilitate the growth of LMFs. It does so by undertaking a case study of a blockchain project, Colony, which seeks to create decentralised, self-organising companies where decision-making power derives from high-quality work. For worker cooperatives, seeking to connect globally dispersed workers through an online workplace, Colony’s proposed capital and governance structure, based on technological and game theoretic insight may offer useful lessons. Drawing from this pre-figurative structure, self-imposed institutional rules may be deployed by worker cooperatives in their by-laws to avoid some of the main pitfalls associated with labour management and thereby, potentially, vitalise the formation of the cooperative form.


Morshed Mannan
Morshed Mannan, LLM (Adv.), PhD Candidate, Company Law Department, Institute of Private Law, Universiteit Leiden.

    Indigenous claims have challenged a number of orthodoxies within state legal systems, one of them being the kinds of proof that can be admissible. In Canada, the focus has been on the admissibility and weight of oral traditions and histories. However, these novel forms are usually taken as alternative means of proving a set of facts that are not in themselves “cultural”, for example, the occupation by a group of people of an area of land that constitutes Aboriginal title. On this view, maps are a neutral technology for representing culturally different interests within those areas. Through Indigenous land use studies, claimants have been able to deploy the powerful symbolic capital of cartography to challenge dominant assumptions about “empty” land and the kinds of uses to which it can be put. There is a risk, though, that Indigenous understandings of land are captured or misrepresented by this technology, and that what appears neutral is in fact deeply implicated in the colonial project and occidental ideas of property. This paper will explore the possibilities for an alternative cartography suggested by digital technologies, by Indigenous artists, and by maps beyond the visual order.


Kirsten Anker Ph.D.
Associate Professor, McGill University Faculty of Law, Canada. Many thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for their frank and helpful feedback.
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