What We Are Reading Today: Blockchain Chicken Farm by Xiaowei Wang

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Updated 18 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Blockchain Chicken Farm by Xiaowei Wang

In Blockchain Chicken Farm, technologist and writer Xiaowei Wang explores the political and social entanglements of technology in rural China.

Her discoveries force her to challenge the standard idea that rural culture and people are backward, conservative and intolerant. 

“Instead, she finds that rural China has not only adapted to rapid globalization but has actually innovated the technology we all use today,” said a review in goodreads.com. “This is a very insightful, beautifully written book about technological advances in rural China.” 

 Accompanied by humorous “Sinofuturist” recipes that frame meals as they transform under new technology, Blockchain Chicken Farm is an original and probing look into innovation, connectivity, and collaboration in the digitized rural world.

Clive Thompson said in a review for The New York Times that Wang “has written a nuanced and thought-provoking account, and it is not easy to tell, after you’re done reading it, how rural China will fare — whether its tiptoe toward prosperity and tech savviness is durable.”

What We Are Reading Today: The Privatized State by Chiara Cordelli

Updated 26 November 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Privatized State by Chiara Cordelli

Many governmental functions today—from the management of prisons and welfare offices to warfare and financial regulation—are outsourced to private entities. Education and health care are funded in part through private philanthropy rather than taxation. Can a privatized government rule legitimately? The Privatized State argues that it cannot.

In this boldly provocative book, Chiara Cordelli argues that privatization constitutes a regression to a precivil condition—what philosophers centuries ago called “a state of nature.” Developing a compelling case for the democratic state and its administrative apparatus, she shows how privatization reproduces the very same defects that Enlightenment thinkers attributed to the precivil condition, and which only properly constituted political institutions can overcome—defects such as provisional justice, undue dependence, and unfreedom. 

Cordelli advocates for constitutional limits on privatization and a more democratic system of public administration, and lays out the central responsibilities of private actors in contexts where governance is already extensively privatized. 

Charting a way forward, she presents a new conceptual account of political representation and novel philosophical theories of democratic authority and legitimate lawmaking.

The Privatized State shows how privatization undermines the very reason political institutions exist in the first place, and advocates for a new way of administering public affairs that is more democratic and just.