It’s a great, great book but it should be 300 pages shorter, for sure. To say that Zuboff’s writing is repetitive is like saying that Trump isn’t always extremely tactful. I kept thinking my Kindle was on the fritz because it felt like I was reading the same page over and over and over again.
This is the reason why most readers of this great book don’t get to the end. And it’s such a shame because not only is this absolutely, hands-down the best non-fiction book of the decade but the last three pages are absolutely stunning, unexpected, and wonderful.
In these last pages, Zuboff tells us that surveillance capitalism is not really capitalism at all. Surveillance capitalism uses the rhetorical devices of the massively successful neoliberalism in order to… destroy capitalism. It masks as neoliberalism but it isn’t. Zuboff demonstrates how the very foundation of what Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek understood as capitalism is destroyed by the surveillance mode of existence.
This is a fascinating argument that I need to keep thinking about. It looks like Zuboff us saying that the surveillance anti-capitalism (which would be a better name for it) is enamored of the idea of planned economy and that the chaos of what we know as a free market (or a free anything) is its enemy. Which is why China is at the forefront of this surveillance system.
As I said, this is all condensed in 3 pages at the end, although the whole book leads you to this conclusion without stating it so bluntly until the very end.