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Techno-feudalism replaced capitalism

by on13 November 2023

Serfing USA

Greek economist/politician Yanis Varoufakis, who "was briefly Greek finance minister in 2015," has penned a book in which he claims that techno-feudalism has killed capitalism.

Varoufakis argues that we no longer live in a capitalist society and that while capitalist relations remain intact, techno-feudalist ties have begun to overtake them.

Traditional capitalists, he proposes, have become "vassal capitalists" and are subordinate and dependent on a new breed of "lords." These Lords are the big tech companies that generate enormous wealth via new digital platforms.

He said that a new form of algorithmic capital has evolved — what Varoufakis calls "cloud capital" —and has displaced "capitalism's two pillars: markets and profits".

Markets have been "replaced by digital trading platforms which look like, but are not markets".

Varoufakis said that the moment a user enters, "you exit capitalism" and enter a "feudal fief, " a digital world belonging to one man and his algorithm.

This lord determines what products you will see. If you are a seller, the platform will determine how you can sell and which customers you can approach. The terms in which you interact, share information and trade are dictated by an "algo" that "works for Jeff Bezos's bottom line."

Access to the "digital fief" comes at the cost of exorbitant rents. Varoufakis notes that many third-party developers on the Apple store, for example, a third of all their revenues", while Amazon charges its sellers "35 per cent of revenues".

He argues this is like a medieval feudal lord sending around the sheriff to collect a large chunk of his serfs' produce because he owns the estate and everything within it.

The other thing is that Big Tech companies are exempt from free-market competition.

Users unknowingly train Big Tech algorithms, making everyone high-tech 'cloud serfs'...

The 'cloud capital' we generate for them all the time increases their capacity to generate yet more wealth, thus increasing their power — something we have only begun to realise."

Approximately 80 per cent of the income of traditional capitalist conglomerates goes to salaries and wages, according to Varoufakis, while Big Tech's workers, in contrast, collect less than a per cent of their firms' revenues.

For Varoufakis, we are living through a tech revolution and a tech-driven economic process. He challenges us to come to terms with what has happened to our economies and societies in the big tech and big finance eras.

Last modified on 13 November 2023
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