Excerpts from 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism'

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales;

  2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification;

  3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history;

  4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy;

  5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth;

  6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy;

  7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty;

  8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.



Surveillance capitalism runs contrary to the early digital dream, consigning the independence of cyberspace to ancient history. Instead, it strips away the illusion that the networked form has some kind of indigenous moral content, that being “connected” is somehow intrinsically pro-social, innately inclusive, or naturally tending toward the democratization of knowledge.



Just as industrial capitalism was driven to the continuous intensification of the means of production, so surveillance capitalists and their market players are now locked into the continuous intensification of the means of behavioral modification and the gathering might of instrumentarian power.



At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.


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