The Political Theology of Bitcoin


This is the famous opening statement of Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty published by Carl Schmitt in 1922. This statement offers the fundamental axiom of how all sovereign power functions, and how the sovereign exception found in emergency legal decrees allows for any sovereign to overcome and dispose of the law. In the essay the political theology of crypto I explain how cryptography negates the possibility of the sovereign exception through the banishment physical and identifying power, which thereby erodes all forms of contemporary state and legal power. I have also wrote an essay on how the metaphysical tensions between any sovereign and any subject will always result in a power dynamic that where the sovereign decision will always overcome any law in times of sincere crisis or emergency, and how cryptography negates this form of power. In this essay I would like to expound more deeply upon the explicit theology of bitcoin, its formula of power, and what it means for the fate of humanity in these darkest of times.

Bitcoin as Subjectivity

While bitcoin is inherently an object of war, it is also an object of art. Art because it is only an expression–an object of non-tangibility, and subjective individual human values according the society we live within. However, through a Hegelian synthesis of art and war; bitcoin spills out from the noosphere as a damnation of all fiat currencies of the world of flesh and steel, and the redemptive answer we seek to rescue and restore law, economy, and order from these crises forced upon them. Through the power of cryptography, and the systems of truth that it demands; Bitcoin expresses a form of truth that no human, institution, or organization is any longer capable of anywhere the physical realm or legal jurisdictions.

This artistic power of war that bitcoin harnesses comes from a totalizing deterritorialization and reterritorialization (in the Deleuzian sense of the word) of the global order through the initiation of a new plane of immanence based upon cryptographic power. This plane of immanence is the renewal of a nomos (law, customs, or social cohesion) of humanity with the internet at its organizational core, and truth as the form of legitimacy. It is a novus ordo seclorum where truth, not authority, becomes the renewed source of legitimacy for all people everywhere. Through the exchange of the legitimacy of power through the sacrifice of authoritarian decrees for the truth of what is, bitcoin inverts the sovereign formula of power.

Both Schmitt and Agamben, two of the leading scholars on the philosophy of sovereignty, define sovereignty as a boarderline concept that is traced throughout the theory of the state. Both conclude that sovereignty finds its foundation in the authentic decision that IS the sovereign exception of the law (also know as ‘a state of emergency’ or ‘sovereign crisis’), not the norm. Schmitt surmises this as, “‘All law is situational law.’ The sovereign produces and guarantees the situation in its totality. He has the monopoly over this last decision.”

This is of great importance because it is through the sovereign exception found in emergency decrees all state law is doomed to the fascism inherent to it. There is no bearing or trace of truth in the sovereign exception; only the raw authoritative power that will justify any legal exceptions. The great father of the theory of the state himself, Thomas Hobbes surmised this in Leviathan rather flippantly as;

“Auctoritas, non veritas facit legem (authority, not truth makes legitimacy)”

Schmitt, whom is among the most esteemed of legal scholars on Hobbes and his theory of the state, further surmises this point of how authority functions within the sovereign exception:

“The exception, which is not codified in the existing legal order, can at best be described as a case of extreme peril, a danger to the existence of the state… It is truly a matter of extreme emergency and how the emergency can be eliminated… From the liberal constitutional point of view, there would be no judicial competence at all. The most guidance the constitution can provide is to indicate who can act in such a case… He [the sovereign] decides if there is an extreme emergency as well as what must be done to eliminate it. Although he stands outside of the normally legally valid system, he nevertheless belongs to it, for it is he who must decide weather the constitution needs to be suspended in its entirety… Whether one has confidence and hope it can be eliminated depends on philosophical, especially on philosophical-historical or metaphysical convictions.”

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology p. 7

Bitcoin as Philosophical Conviction

Bitcoin is the philosophical cognition of a world that has lost its nomos; where truth is no longer concrete facts, but fickle and transient opinion of those in power. Only in a world where seditious guile rules opening, where money is but a tool for the politically powerful, and truth a facet of manipulation, does bitcoin present its radical antithesis to the current paradigm of law, order, and sovereignty. It is the fulfillment of a crypto-anarchist critique of state, money, and legal power in the world of today.

Bitcoin is this philosophical conviction–particular the philosophical-historical cognition of what cryptography is, how it was developed for total war, and what its development throughout the concourse of human history means. It is here that we find our point-of-attack and a categorical imperative from which any sovereign exception can be totally and completely eliminated. Through the linguistic form that is cryptography; a demand is created that can only be answered in binary form of ‘yes, yes,’ or ‘no, no,’ and nothing else. It is a formula of true / false statements of output ownership protected by the magnanimity of cryptography, which creates the timechain of bitcoin, and the fulfillment of bitcoin’s oath to the cryptography that concretes it.

The sovereign legal form glitches out before naked truth and the total silent obligation that is the secret of all state power, arcana imperii:

“The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no covenant be relinquished.”

-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

In a world that has lost its nomos is a world where no sovereign power, institution, or government can offer even the most basic protections or assurances that comprises of the dignity of life, Bitcoin offers a radical new hope from which man may rescue himself from the cage that is every nation-state today. The law itself is suppose to be the fulfillment of the most basic promise of the social contract by sovereign power, and yet we have entered into a world where no such promise exist. Any law today is little more than authoritarian approvals, appeals, rules, and decrees; lacking even the most basic contractual functions. Through the broken oaths of sovereign powers everywhere towards the most basic aspects of the social contract; all people everywhere have been forsaken, the truth of their laws and their justice corrupted in every way, broken from being capable of being saved.

In this darkest of nights however, there is a spectacular gem of truth from which light gleams and points towards our exit from this hollowed and damned place. Bitcoin and the cryptographic breakthroughs that it has ushered in over the last decade offers us a totally new and novel strategy of human organization that breaks out of the sovereign form and can restore law, order, and economy to their rightful judicious places. As Foucault warned us, “In political and social theory, we still have not cut off the king’s head.”

Bitcoin and cryptography is a form of power that is beyond any physical force and the brutishness of any form of authoritarianism for the very real truth it must contain in order to function, and the very real protection that the cryptography it contains offers. Bitcoin is the premonition of an idea whose time has come; of a humanity that is ready to rise to its task of the abrogation of the statism, and to restore the political to its rightful place at the forefront of any law.

Bitcoin is a new form of political, economic, and ethical organization that raises truth to being the only sacrosanct of any law. It is the philosophical cognition of a world that understands the insipid greed of men, and the infinite vice that is his hunger for power. Bitcoin has enables a new form of digital organization that banishes the prattling lies of men, and demands the verification of any claim he states. Bitcoin does this through returning truth to its preeminent place as the foundation of all social contracts, and the meaning of truth in such agreements through the cryptographic formula of verification. In short, it is truth, not authority that makes legitimacy with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin as Political Theology

At the very end of Political Theology, Schmitt of all people, provides us with an anarchist’s critique of any sovereign decision by the very virtue of what any decision by a sovereign power must be and how it is decided:

“Every claim of decision must be evil for the anarchist, because the right emerges by itself if the immanence of life is not disturbed by such claims. This radical antithesis forces him of course to decide against the decision; and this results in the odd paradox where Bakuin, the greatest anarchist of the nineteenth century, had to become in theory the theologian of the antitheological, and in practice the dictator of an antidictatorship.”

Carl Schmitt, the final paragraph of Political Theology

It is this radical antithesis that has us also decide against the decision as well. We are products of the late 20th century; grandchildren of the spectacle society where all forms of life that would not be subjected to the machine were liquidated long ago. Now under the grimace of the total corruption of law, the complete looting of the treasuries of all peoples by political and corporate oligarchies everywhere from ’emergencies’ of their own creation; we find the reason for us to rise against, and choose to reclaim that which is only ours. This the reactivation of the political as the struggle for life, and the right to die trying; opens the truly political (polis) once again.

We understand how Bitcoin makes for the oddest of paradoxes; with anarchism becoming in theory the greatest form of ‘capitalism’ against all states, and in practice, a dictatorship of privacy and pseudonymity which unrelentingly will not give itself to anyone but the individual.

Bitcoin rings with a thunderous crack, “Vires In Numeris” and becomes more powerful and fervent with each seeker that we convert. It is a political theology that restores truth as the final weapon against any system of lies, fear, and exploitation in order to renew the nomos of humanity, and for us all to discover that there is still a political to be claimed, but only for those who are willing to take the risk.

The Revolutionary Truth Hidden in Bitcoin

Having witnessed the twilight of humanity befall idiotic and empty slogans under the barbarism of statism’s vacant chanting of idiotic lies; the spectacle has enveloped all forms-of-life, and all people everywhere. In all of its grandeur of stupidity and lobotomization, state capitalism has fused with the totalitarian eye of the internet; idiotically unaware of the beast it was unleashing, the prophecy it was fulfilling.

From the very outset, we can see the fundamental contradiction between the idea of sovereignty and the functions of cryptography. Cryptography is completely unanswerable to any sovereign power, as it lack the capacity to understand anything beyond its binary language of true or false, nor does it capitulate to any form of violence. The only laws that cryptography understands are the laws of mathematics which animates their functions, and consecrates their ways.

By the very nature that no sovereign power can overcome the laws of mathematics that animate cryptographic systems, it points to the very nature of what crypto is and its hidden encrypted meaning. There is no emergency, war, pandemic or crisis that can stop Bitcoin and what its mission at hand is. Now there is only the real state of emergency to be introduced, and the final struggle in which we take our rightful place as the owner of ourselves, our political systems, and our wealth with our allies and those whom we hodl in common with.

This is the political theology of Bitcoin, the radial promise of a machine of truth that can only speak in a binary of true or false, documenting its own claims of just that. From the outset of the creation of the timechain of Satoshi’s; Bitcoin has been nothing more than a mechanization of truth-telling of what address owns what bitcoin, and how many joules of energy were used to produce those bitcoins.

With each block that is built on the bitcoin timechain, it resounds and echos louder and louder against the backdrop of man and his fallen world of lies, deception, and deceit. Only in a time where man has become an insipid beast of guile, brutishness, and sophistry, where politicians and gangsters openly fraternize and discuss how to rape the world with no consequence to themselves, does the theology of bitcoin and the promise it cointains move from revolutionary to messianic.

There is no long any government anywhere that can offer the same promise as that of Bitcoin does. There is no central bank, no commodity form, no currency, no ‘crypto‘ outside of Bitcoin that can offer the same assurances or security as Bitcoin. The theological promise of Bitcoin is that there will never be more than 21 million coins, there is no way to alter the supply schedule, or know exactly who owns what outputs. Bitcoin is a new social contract based upon the inverted form of the sovereign dictum, with truth–not authority–being the legitimate maker of the law that is bitcoin’s blockchain.

In a world where governments across the globe have promised to create infinite monetary units, swore everlasting loyalty to corporations and political sociopaths before their own citizens; the only thing left to do is refuse their broken social contract they call politics and law, and create new and better ones more fitting for our time. Through the power, glory, and grace that is bitcoin, and for the magnanimous promise that Satoshi Nakamoto has delivered to us; bitcoin is the theological answer to the crises of our time. Bitcoin’s heliotropism directs us towards a world where we use cryptographic systems to verify the truth of all things, and utilize such a power to renew and recreate our systems of liberty and justice for all.

Satoshi Nakamoto’s promise of a money that does not change for the light and transient causes of mortals, nor bend to the callous and pathetic will of politicians around the planet has given us a light to follow in these darkest of times. It is the oath of the cryptographic machine to itself, and its total intransigence to change for any crisis, emergency, or state of exception. Though this most wonderful and theological of tasks, Satoshi Nakamoto has created the machine of economic redemption that we need to renew our world, to free ourselves from the chains of debt and bondage that governments around the globe have forced on to all of us. It is a method to renew the social contract to its original form, and what the promise of a social contract under the rubric of truth really means.

“Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent.”

–Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762

Erik is a crypto-anarchist, iconoclast, and thinker that has been working in the bitcoin ecosystem since 2012. His primary concerns are the intersections of political, economic, and social theory as they relate to bitcoin specifically and crypto generally.