Blockchain Constitutionalism: A Literature Review

In June 2023, the Apiary team attended Blockchain Constitutionalism: the Role of Legitimacy in Polycentric Systems conference.  In preparation for the conference, we conducted  a high-level literature review focused on the writings and work of fellow attendees. It proved useful for us – so we’re sharing this literature here should it prove helpful for others as well. 

The conference was organized into three themes: Polycentricity, Legitimacy, and Constitutionalism. To account for the overlap between these three concepts, we organized our analysis of polycentricity, legitimacy and constitutionalism into three themes: 


  1. Context specific – Constitutions provide important frameworks to guide individual behavior; however, they need to be created with adaptability and flexibility in mind to ensure their long-term relevance. 
  2. Limits of technological legitimacy – Blockchain technology presents an opportunity to reinforce and/or redefine legitimacy, but there are limitations to the amount of legitimacy that blockchain technology alone can provide. 
  3. Blockchain as inherently polycentric – Polycentricity is inherently present in blockchain communities and is generally applied through community centric processes, or through processes that prioritize economic value.


These themes reflect the reality that constitutionalism, polycentricity, and legitimacy overlap and co-create one another. For example, while many factors can influence the degree to which polycentric governance models are successful, one of those factors is the perceived legitimacy of the system as an incentive for participation. Our thematic groupings (1) reflect the overlap and (2) present a few ways that these themes contribute to the successes or challenges currently faced by blockchain communities.


Read the full Literature Review on Medium.