Tuesday, November 19, 2019
#323 / Platform Capitalism
Are you interested in thinking about our new technologies from a "Marxist" perspective? I think I have just the book for you. The book pictured above, published in 2016, is not very long, and it is not very expensive, either. Visit your favorite online bookseller (or local bookstore) to check that out. If you want a "short" version, you can click this link for a brief article by author Nick Srnicek, which will at least give you some idea of the topics that the book addresses.
I am not much of an "-ism" guy, and I have never much liked the categorizing that often goes on when Capitalism and Marxism duke it out on one or another intellectual battlefield. I was prepared, thus, to resist Platform Capitalism. The book is assigned reading in the Crown 1 course I am teaching this Quarter at UCSC - The Ethical and Political Implications of Emerging Technologies. If you click that link, you will have access to a series of "Plenary" presentations given as part of the course. Local political figure Mike Rotkin was one presenter. Other presenters were also interesting.
Given that the book was assigned to the students, I knew I would have to read it, and I was not looking forward to the experience. I was expecting it to be a rather convoluted and difficult to understand "Marxist" analysis, with lots of jargon. Whoa! Not at all. In fact, I found Platform Capitalism to be easy to read, and it made very clear how our new and "emerging" technologies are, in fact, just as captive to the corporations as the "old" technologies have been. The Internet, and all that has come along with it, is just one more expression of how the "capitalist" project has always proceeded. Maximizing profit is at the heart of our economic system, and the new technologies that have come to such prominence in the last twenty years or so vividly demonstrate how that capitalist project works, and has always worked.
The course I usually teach at UCSC is a legal studies course called, "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom." If you read Platform Capitalism, you'll understand just how the "Technology" part of that trilogy is threatening to eliminate both of the other two terms.