by Pepe Escobar
December 04, 2020
from BlackListedNews Website
was not an accident of history.
How the Washington consensus
ended up metastasized into
the Silicon Valley consensus.
remains virtually terra incognita...
In Techno-Feudalism, published three months ago in France (no English translation yet), Cedric Durand, an economist at the Sorbonne, provides a crucial, global public service,
Durand places the Digital Age in the larger context of the historical evolution of capitalism to show how the Washington consensus ended up metastasized into the Silicon Valley consensus.
In a delightful twist, he brands the new grove as the "Californian ideology".
We're far away from Jefferson Airplane and the Beach Boys; it's more like Schumpeter's "creative destruction" on steroids, complete with IMF-style "structural reforms" emphasizing "flexibilization" of work and outright marketization/financialization of everyday life.
The Digital Age was crucially associated with right-wing ideology from the very start.
The incubation was provided by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), active from 1993 to 2010 and conveniently funded, among others, by,
In 1994, PFF held a ground-breaking conference in Atlanta that eventually led to a seminal Magna Carta:
Not by accident the magazine Wired was founded, just like PFF, in 1993, instantly becoming the house organ of the "Californian ideology".
Among the authors of the Magna Carta we find,
Before anyone else, they were already conceptualizing how,
Their Magna Carta was the privileged road map to explore the new frontier.
Those 'Randian' heroes
Also not by accident the intellectual guru of the new frontier was Ayn Rand and her quite primitive dichotomy between "pioneers" and the mob.
Rand declared that,
When it comes to the new property rights of the new Eldorado, all power should be exercised by the Silicon Valley "pioneers", a Narcissus bunch in love with their mirror image as superior 'Randian' heroes.
In the name of innovation they should be allowed to destroy any established rules, in a Schumpeterian "creative destruction" rampage.
Durand goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to the true nature of "digital domination":
On the contrary.
So everything from video-surveillance images and electronic banking to DNA samples and supermarket tickets implies some form of territorial appropriation.
Here we see in all its glory the extractivist logic inbuilt in the development of Big Data.
Durand gives us the example of Android to illustrate the extractivist logic in action.
That's how a de facto, immensely valuable, online real estate empire is built.
The key point is that whatever the original business - Google, Amazon, Uber - strategies of conquering cyberspace all point to the same target:
About the Chinese credit system…
Durand offers a finely balanced analysis of the Chinese credit system - a public/private hybrid system launched in 2013 during the 3rd plenum of the 18th Congress of the CCP, under the motto,
For the State Council, the supreme government authority in China, what really mattered was to encourage behavior deemed responsible in the financial, economic and socio-political spheres, and sanction what is not. It's all about trust.
Beijing defines it as,
The Chinese term - shehui xinyong - is totally lost in translation in the West.
Instead of the pedestrian Western accusations of being an Orwellian system, priorities include,
Cybernetic management of social life is being seriously discussed in China since the 1980s.
In fact, since the 1940s, as we see in Mao's Little Red Book. It could be seen as inspired by the Maoist principle of "mass lines", as in,
Durand's analysis goes one step beyond Soshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism when he finally reaches the core of his thesis, showing how digital platforms become "fiefdoms":
And just as in feudalism, fiefdoms dominate territory by attaching serfs.
Masters made their living profiting from the social power derived from the exploitation of their domain, and that implied unlimited power over the serfs.
Silicon Valley stalwart Peter Thiel has always stressed the target of the digital entrepreneur is exactly to bypass competition.
As quoted in Crashed - How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, Thiel declared,
So now we are facing not a mere clash between Silicon Valley capitalism and finance capital, but actually a new mode of production:
That is the "techno-feudal" option, as defined by Durand.
Blake meets Burroughs
Durand's book is extremely relevant to show how the theoretical and political critique of the Digital Age is still rarified.
The total concentration of the digital glebe is leading to a scenario, as Durand recalls, already dreamed up by Stuart Mill, where every land in a country belonged to a single master.
Our generalized dependency on the digital masters seems to be,
Is there a possible way out?
We have to expand our scope of comprehension - and stop confusing the map (as shown in the Magna Carta) with the territory (our perception).
William Blake, in his proto-psychedelic visions, was all about liberation and subordination:
Looks like a proto-analysis of the Digital Age...
William Burroughs conceptualized Control,
To break down Control, we must be able to hack into and disrupt its core programs.
Burroughs showed how all forms of Control must be rejected - and defeated:
Here's our future: