World History, Worker Managed Enterprises, DAO

3 min readMay 28, 2021


Decentralized Socrates (Part 3)

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise1445Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) Italian
The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise

The previous article is here.

Karatani Koujin’s “The Structure of World History” and “The Origin of Philosophy” are essentially one combined work. The former analyzes the patterns that appear in world history from the standpoint concerning “forms of exchange. The latter deals with the politics of the Greek city-state of Ionia and its alteration by Athens as an example of a particular exchange form mentioned in the first book. i.e., the free and equal form.

I will not give a detailed description of these works. Instead, I mention them because they provide a panorama of world history regarding the structure of exchange and organization. If the forms of exchange and organization determine the structure of world history, decentralized autonomous organizations may create a new historical epoch.

The three primary forms of exchange and organizational structure described by Karatani are as follows:

  • Exchange Form A: Reciprocity = emotional exchange in which gratitude is rewarded with sacrifice (community exchange network)
  • Exchange Form B: Tyranny = redistribution of security and goods in exchange for forced taxation (state)
  • Exchange Form C: Market = anonymous participants exchange goods and services voluntarily (globalization)

In “The Structure of World History,” the author explains how these forms emerge as actual social institutions and how they determine political values. Those who are interested should consult the original books.

In addition to the above, Karatani proposes a high-level form of exchange form D as returning from exchange mode A. Unfortunately, only a few examples are given, such as world religions like “Christianity” and the Ionian politics mentioned earlier.

The distinctive feature of exchange style D is its insistence on universal values that preserve emotive exchanges like reciprocity (as in form A) and reject customs that exclusively interest a particular community (not like form A). This innovation is the case with “God” in Christianity and “Nothingness” in Buddhism. These reject previously believed communal deities and rituals and preach subordination to values that transcend them.

Karatani argues that a political and organizational realization corresponds to the exchange form D in “The Structure of World History,” but its shape is not explicit. The examples he cites are consumer cooperatives or worker-run enterprises where voting rights are one person, one vote (not proportional to the amount of investment as in a stock company).

In “The Origins of Philosophy,” the sequel to “The Structure of World History,” Greek, especially the Ionian polity, is taken as a concrete example or origin of the exchange style D. However, there seems to be no discovery in the political system. The Ionian political system was equal because it was a cooperative society with one person and one vote. It was free because there was enough land for people to leave the community.

What is newly discovered in “The Origin of Philosophy” is the behavior of Socrates, who inherited the Ionian spirit.

The behavior of Socrates, which I will discuss later in the following article, will be explained as a “one-man political system,” so to speak. The second half of “The Origin of Philosophy” provides a contrast between two forms of “politics by philosophers,” the “Socratic method of dialogue” and the “Platonic philosopher-king,” as a clue to the “political system corresponding to the mode of exchange D.”

The similarities between worker-managed enterprises and consumer cooperatives with DAOs would be obvious. It is the reason why this article focuses on Karatani’s work and the DAO at the same time. In contrast, the links between the DAO and such ideas as Socrates’ behavior or concept of the Platonic philosopher-king are hardly straightforward.

Implementing worker-managed enterprises or DAOs does not make much of an improvement. It is required to discover something unique to that form of organization.

This article will explore this issue using the relationship between Socrates and DAO as a clue. This link is where the title “Decentralized Socrates” comes from.

Next entry here