What I don’t like about Zuboff’s book is the disconnect between the opening pages and the rest. She starts out very strongly with an analysis of how surveillance capitalism helps us feel the way we really want to and we don’t question it in return.
But then she abandons this argument and adopts an easier narrative of how we are being oppressed by evil capitalists but we can change things any time we want.
The problem is that we don’t want. There are brilliant analyses of the evils neoliberalism out there but nary anybody goes in the direction of looking at its enormously seductive and huge benefits. The only person who went in this direction that I know of is Jim McGuigan.
This isn’t a situation of clearly defined victims and victimizers. The people who are most despoiled of their privacy by surveillance capitalism are the winners, not the losers, of the neoliberal economy. Do you know how much the Roomba and the Sleep Mattress cost? How many people in the world even have houses that require a Roomba vacuum or need a bunch of Echo dots for all the rooms?
There’s something more going on here than clear-cut exploitation of poor, victimized billions by a dozen of evildoers at Google. Zuboff has bought into the facile narrative of the 1% of winners against the 99% of equally victimized losers. But the story is a lot more complicated.