Capitalism’s New Clothes

Article Capitalism’s New Clothes

Shoshana Zuboff's new book on “surveillance capitalism” emphasizes the former at the expense of the latter

The Baffler,




What works and what doesn’t in Shoshana Zuboff’s tome The Age of Surveillance Capitalism? Writing for left-wing magazine The Baffler, science historian Evgeny Morozov evaluates Zuboff’s writing through the lens of rigorous critical inquiry. In his long article, he considers the book on its own merits; in terms of how its proclamations stand up against political, economic and cultural theories; and in comparison with Zuboff’s other books. Morozov brings an authoritative, well-informed (occasionally humorous) voice that’s an excellent complement to the book. His review is also a fascinating stand-alone analysis, appropriate for anyone interested in how the concept of surveillance capitalism applies to the intersection of capitalism, IT and privacy.


What “Surveillance Capitalism” Entails

Shoshana Zuboff uses the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe the process of giving “social power” to tech firms, which enables them to influence people’s behavior. The “digitization of everything” turns people into subordinates of their smart devices – like their cars, homes, mattresses, toothbrushes and vodka bottles. The regime that drives surveillance capitalism is Big Tech, with Facebook and Google leading the way. Apple is an exception since it’s less driven by the advertising imperative. Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism grew out of a 2013 newspaper article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and reflects an evolution of her thought, previously presented in her books In the Age of the Smart Machine (1988) and The Support Economy (2002).

Zuboff skirts the fact that Marxists at Monthly Review first coined the term “surveillance capital.” She herself isn’t a Marxist. She first used the term in 2014, but the roots of her critique go back to the 1970s. Zuboff...

About the Author

Evgeny Morozov, PhD, authored The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and is a contributing editor at The Baffler.

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