Shoshana Zuboff discusses her new book, "Surveillance Capitalism"

Originally published at:


Cool. Cool…

Also, THAT HAIR THO!!! a WORK OF ART! If I hadn’t planned on reading this book anyways, I’d buy it just for her awesome do! :heart_eyes::smiling_face_with_three_hearts::heart_eyes:


That said, I want to mark out an area of caution that I have with what I’ve seen so far of her argument – a problem that I’ve had with other critical books about the rise of Big Tech: locating the original sin of Big Tech in advertising and surveillance, rather than concentration and monopoly.

I think this is not quite correct. I’ve not read the book either but I have read John Naughton’s article and interview. The ‘penny drops’ idea, for me, was that these tech companies now have a concentration/monopoly on the data they derive from all our data (and all other data they’ve hoovered up).

(The 10 year portrait/photo project is an example. We all submit our 10-year-apart pictures and someone gets a database of how humans age physically over a given period, which they can then exploit to their heart’s content. This may not be the best example, but you get the idea - many “AI” applications have a similar source.)

Read the article if you cannot read the book

It was sobering to read the comments below the line at the Guardian, from all the idiots saying ‘I care not if they use my data to target ads at me’ and so on (because they use blockers, or just ignore them). They totally failed to get the point.

This absolutely IS a concentration/monopoly issue, @doctorow and I think she gets it and talks about it.


Yeah, that’s some hair and a half.


Obviously, “surveillance capitalism” and “unfettered capitalism” can both be true. The former is the current installment of the franchise, the latter is Marx’s book where it all came from.

Fabio’s wife, perhaps?

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It’s pretty damn marvelous. I mean, I thought my kitty’s floof was something special!


People who don’t seem to have a clue about what capitalism actually is throw it around like an epithet. Capitalism merely assigns value to things so that an efficient method of allocation can be established. All the “evils” of capitalism are really evils of governments that distort the value equation by creating and then favouring monopolistic entities that enhance the power of those in government. The system we are living with is cronyism not capitalism. Capitalism has been dead in the US since the turn of the last century.

That hair is like a 70’s dance party had a baby with a David Lee Roth hair weaving experiment!


That hairdo is FABULOUS… and the author seems pretty impressive too.


Well, I wouldn’t want to be in the gilded age, with child labor, violent union busting, etc. I don’t see it as that different from what we have now. To the extent we’re better off than we were then, it’s because the depression and WWII made it OK for government to intervene.
You can define capitalism as narrowly as you do… fine. Then we have to discuss the unavoidable consequences of capitalism separately. Me, If a system has “unavoidable consequences”, I see no reason not to include those in the definition of the term.
I mean, you could say cancer isn’t a killer, it’s just an alternate system for cell division. You wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s a little disingenuous.


No. Captialism is an ownership regime that gives ownership and control to the people who put in the money, rather than those who run the state or contribute the labor. Assigning value is called…assigning value. In this context, “capitalism” is only really needed to distinguish from state surveillance (the kind everyone is accustomed to being wary about) so maybe “private” surveillance or “corporate” would have sufficed. However, it feels appropriate to invoke the incredible power of what these capital-rich individuals have amassed, and also connote the way that data collection is it’s own kind of capital that can be used to further build private empires. If you think capitalism works better without a functioning state (not saying ours is a great example, but…), you are pining for an alternate dimension.


If you’re going to take that stance - ‘pure’ capitalism has never existed.


Not a good idea to do a book review before reading at least some of it. She is not mistaking survellience capitalism for unfettered capitalism - it is a new type of capitalism but you’ll have to read the book to appreciate all the nuance of her arguments. I think she is trying to come up with new labels and perspectives on what is happening as the internet behemoths take control. We need a new vocabulary that is less sanguine than the “sharing economy” to dissect what is really going on there. It is certainly worth bringing this work to readers attention as I predict it will be one of the most important books of 2019 but I better take my own medicine and read more of it before making that claim :slight_smile:


I know… I don’t want to do the whole “she’s a woman, let’s pay attention to her appearance” but DAMN that hair demands it!


So, you either fully accept things are they are, because they are better in some ways then in the past, or STFU? How about no?

Even Marx agreed that the rise of the capitalist system was a massive revolution that changed the world. He saw the positives - as did Adam Smith before him, when he railed against noble monopolies. But the rise of the capitalist system as a world system, that people were often forced into AT THE BARREL OF A GUN has it’s downside.

No. PEOPLE do these things. Capitalism isn’t some unicorn that exists outside of social relations. It IS a set of social relations - hence it can be changed and improve or done away with for something better.

Disagree. It is capitalism. Whether or not cronyist capitalism is the REAL form of capitalism or a deviation, that’s up for debate. But there is little doubt we’re living within the capitalist system.

Well, but I’d argue that capitalism does have an agreed upon definition already (and debates around the definition, too). You can’t really ignore the work that’s been done on the issue for the last couple of hundred years (by both critics and supports of the capitalist system) and redefine it to fit with your world view, I’d argue.

LOL! No shit, right?


There is no need for government for creating monopolistic entities. History actually proves the opposite: that particular regulations are necessary to prevent monopolies to arise.


There was another article on the subject in the Guardian. I cited it in another thread shortly before that article was published.

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Or, to put it another way, Capitalism is the apotheosis of Agriculture. The latest phase of civilisation upon Earth is basically People Farming. There are so many.

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I don’t know if I’d say that… it’s a far more complicated and alienating type of economy than a rural agricultural one. If you buy into Marx’s stages of history, it’s a specific stage that is/was new in history and distinct from earlier economic systems.

Personally, I part with Marx on stages of history that are understood teleologically, but I agree on the specificity with which we understand capitalism. People are far too eager to attribute all forms of trade to capitalism, which simply “naturalizes” capitalism. Since it’s a social relationship, it’s not “natural” in the sense that it exists outside of human made structures.