Abstract - The Information Society 33(1)


Silk Road: The Market Beyond the Reach of the State

Rita Zajácz

Between February 2011 and October 2013, Silk Road operated the largest and most sophisticated anonymous online marketplace for illegal drugs. More than a business venture, it was designed for anarcho-capitalist resistance to state power. The primary research question of this inquiry is: can a stable market, defying the state, emerge under conditions of online anonymity? The article shows that Silk Road was built on a contradiction. On the one hand, strong cryptographic anonymity was embraced because it facilitated hiding from the state. On the other hand, the very same cryptographic anonymity made it difficult to impose rules and create a stable market. Silk Road sought to cultivate subcultural norms to ensure proper behavior in face of anonymity but they were not strong enough to control the behavior enabled by its architecture.


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