Psychopolitics, Part I

I said before that Byung-Chul Han rewrites Zygmunt Bauman without offering much of his own. However, his book Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power is actually very fresh. It’s my favorite one so far.

Marx promised that the exploitation of the working classes by the owners of the means of production would eventually be abolished by the advent of communism. Obviously, no communism arrived. However, allo-exploitation – which is the exploitation by others – is, indeed, dying out. Neoliberalism is killing it by destroying the barriers between exploited labor and means of production.

Everybody’s means of production is now the self. We are our own means of production. And each of us is both the exploiter and the exploited at once. Instead of allo-exploitation, it’s now auto-exploitation.

The social revolution is no longer possible because there can be no class solidarity when there are no classes.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. It’s 8 pm on a Saturday night. What are people doing? The rich, the poor, and everybody in the middle are working their tails off without any compensation to enrich the owners of Twitter, Instagram, or FB. They are squeezing every ounce of value from their means of production, which is their self. And they don’t even begin to conceive of themselves as exploited.

7 thoughts on “Psychopolitics, Part I

  1. Regarding FB, it is even worse than one may imagine. See:

    Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet

    Since at least 2013, Facebook has been making noises about connecting the entire world to the internet. But even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s operations head, admits that there are Facebook users who don’t know they’re on the internet. So is Facebook succeeding in its goal if the people it is connecting have no idea they are using the internet? And what does it mean if masses of first-time adopters come online not via the open web, but the closed, proprietary network where they must play by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rules?

    This is more than a matter of semantics.


    1. It’s a surveillance apparatus that any totalitarian state would envy. But the funny thing is that people are eagerly volunteering to be surveiled. Nobody is coercing them.


    1. I really love having brilliant readers who immediately see connections between theory and other stuff they’ve heard or read.

      Thanks for the link!


  2. Thanks for the reminder that we’re really doing work for others on those apps.

    I have recently redoubled my efforts to seriously cut time spent on Facebook, Instagram, etc. partly because I wanted to find more time for things like reading, films, and exercise. I have done more reading in the past two weeks than I had in the previous six months and I also saw two films, went to a play, and made it to the gym several times. It is exciting and also depressing that it was so easy to make more room for these things.


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