Blockchain agency theory

Adah-Kole Onjewu, Nigel Walton, Ioannis Koliousis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Longstanding assumptions underlying strategic alliances, such as agency theory, are actively being revoked by dynamics in the new economy. The mechanism of inter-firm cooperation is increasingly being altered by radical developments in blockchains and artificial intelligence among other technologies. To capture and address this shift, this review takes a problematisation approach and focuses wholly on the pertinence of agency theory. First, it begins by acknowledging the established corpus in the area before, second, appraising the seven long-held assumptions in the principal-agent relationship encompassing (1) self-interest, (2) conflicting goals, (3) bounded rationality, (4) information asymmetry, (5) pre-eminence of efficiency, (6) risk aversion and (7) information as a commodity. Third, to add a fresh perspective, the review proceeds to proffer seven assumptions to advance a novel ‘Blockchain Agency Theory’ that would better describe new attributes and relaxed agency behaviour in blockchain alliances. These counter assumptions are (1) common interests, (2) congruent goals, (3) unbounded rationality, (4) information symmetry, (5) smart contracts, (6) mean risk and (7) information availability. In the fourth part, the prior audience of principals and agents is appraised and this culminates into, fifth, a consideration of a new audience of blockchain agency in algocratic environments. Altogether, the seven new assumptions extend and provoke new agency thinking among scholars and blockchain practitioners alike.
Original languageEnglish
Article number122482
Number of pages10
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date13 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • Blockchain
  • Agency theory
  • Problematisation
  • Self-interest
  • Bounded rationality
  • Information asymmetry

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