Mood: Making a living today requires a full stack hustle I’ve never been up to. Few are up to it, and not for long enough, and not without a team that centers care. The cost of relentless hustle is everything that matters most. If you’re lucky, you amass enough social and economic capital to survive the inevitable burnout and the formation of a new adaptive persona. I’m one of the lucky ones with some time to figure out what the hell comes next.
Just as the Internet and social platforms more broadly have been accompanied by a range of techno-utopian mythologies, so too has participatory culture and micro-celebrity. These mythologies, promoted through mainstream media discourses, technology firms, and at times, in academic scholarship, often highlight the potential of social media to promote progressive ideals of social equality. Specifically, they promote social media—and the micro-celebrity it enables—as a fundamentally democratizing force where anyone can have a voice and help shape public discourse.
In recent years, a range of Internet scholarship has begun to challenge some of these mythologies. For example, scholars of online micro-celebrity and influencer culture have highlighted the inherent neoliberal self-commodification involved in these processes, in which users brand themselves through influencer marketing (Abidin 2018; Marwick 2015). Media historian Fred Turner (2018, 144) has argued that platforms such as Twitter and YouTube have enabled “charismatic, personality-centered modes of authoritarianism” in which the expression of individuality online can ultimately serve authoritarian ends.
By adopting micro-celebrity practices that stress relatability, authenticity, and accountability, they differentiate themselves from both the mainstream media and progressive politics as they perceive them. Thus, the YouTubers in this study align micro-celebrity practices with a reactionary political standpoint. These findings complicate previous mythologies of Internet celebrity that treat participatory culture as inherently progressive.
certain political influencers have specifically aligned micro-celebrity practices with reactionary, anti-progressive, and frequently conspiratorial politics.
Importantly, by stressing the ideals of relatability, authenticity, and accountability—all of which have positive connotations—the practices of micro-celebrity, when paired with reactionary politics, can serve as an entry point for more extreme views. The rejection of mainstream media is often the first step in radicalization for many young people, as their previous worldviews get destabilized (Marwick and Lewis 2017). YouTube provides a fertile environment for this kind of radicalization: its recommendation algorithm frequently encourages users toward increasingly extremist content, and political YouTubers (including those included in this analysis) frequently collaborate with more extreme guests, thus giving them a platform for their views (Lewis 2018; Tufekci 2018).
Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”
That is why a new capitalism must also include a tax system that generates the resources we need and includes higher taxes on the wealthiest among us. Local efforts – like the tax I supported last year on San Francisco’s largest companies to address our city’s urgent homelessness crisis – will help. Nationally, increasing taxes on high-income individuals like myself would help generate the trillions of dollars that we desperately need to improve education and health care and fight climate change.
The culture of corporate America needs to change, and it shouldn’t take an act of Congress to do it. Every C.E.O. and every company must recognize that their responsibilities do not stop at the edge of the corporate campus. When we finally start focusing on stakeholder value as well as shareholder value, our companies will be more successful, our communities will be more equal, our societies will be more just and our planet will be healthier.
Hearing this from a tech leader is heartening. This makes me all the gladder that Salesforce Ventures invested in us. Let low-road capitalism be done. Build instead a higher road of equity literate capitalism attuned to all stakeholders.
Capitalism works because companies that thrive take a bunch of inputs and create a product that is more valuable than the sum of its parts. That creates additional value, and in such a model companies have to compete by making better goods and services.
What predatory pricing does is to enable competition purely based on access to capital.
Endless money-losing is a variant of counterfeiting, and counterfeiting has dangerous economic consequences.
When Americans declare that “we live in a capitalist society” – as a real estate mogul told The Miami Herald last year when explaining his feelings about small-business owners being evicted from their Little Haiti storefronts – what they’re often defending is our nation’s peculiarly brutal economy. “Low-road capitalism,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Joel Rogers has called it. In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivized through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads
Those searching for reasons the American economy is uniquely severe and unbridled have found answers in many places (religion, politics, culture). But recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism.
What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on nonwhite people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above.
During slavery, “Americans built a culture of speculation unique in its abandon,” writes the historian Joshua Rothman in his 2012 book, “Flush Times and Fever Dreams.” That culture would drive cotton production up to the Civil War, and it has been a defining characteristic of American capitalism ever since. It is the culture of acquiring wealth without work, growing at all costs and abusing the powerless. It is the culture that brought us the Panic of 1837, the stock-market crash of 1929 and the recession of 2008. It is the culture that has produced staggering inequality and undignified working conditions. If today America promotes a particular kind of low-road capitalism – a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity; a winner-take-all capitalism of stunning disparities not only permitting but awarding financial rule-bending; a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider – one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is.
Low-road capitalism. That’s a handy term.
Our movement, however, needs nothing of respectability politics. Accepting — conceding, surrendering, submitting to — that will only erode our movement until it crumbles entirely. Respectability politics is what’s gotten us into reliance on foundations and nonprofits, and elected officials and bureaucrats, and policies and programs that only benefit the most privileged and resourced members of our communities at the direct expense of the most marginalized. Radical, militant anger — and radical, militant hope, and radical, wild dreams, and radical, active love — that’s what’ll get us past the death machines of ableism and capitalism and white supremacy and laws and institutions working overtime to kill us.
Mindfulness, as co-opted by the capitalists of the world, teaches workers to be comfortable with insecurity.
mindfulness has become the perfect coping mechanism for neoliberal capitalism: it privatises stress and encourages people to locate the root of mental ailments in their own work ethic. As a psychological strategy it promotes a particular form of revolution, one that takes place within the heads of individuals fixated on self-transformation, rather than as a struggle to overcome collective suffering.
Via: HEWN, No. 314
I updated “Mindfulness in Education” with selections from “ClassDojo App Takes Mindfulness To Scale in Public Education (Ben Williamson) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice” and “School-Based Mindfulness Training and the Economisation of Attention: A Stieglerian View: Educational Philosophy and Theory: Vol 47, No 8”.
James Reveley has further argued that school-based mindfulness represents a ‘human enhancement strategy’ to insulate children from pathologies that stem from ‘digital capitalism.’ Mindfulness in schools, he adds, is ‘an exercise in pathology-proofing them in their capacity as the next generation of unpaid digital labourers.’ It trains young people to become responsible for augmenting their own emotional wellbeing and in doing so to secure the well-being of digital capitalism itself.
According to Davies, however, much of the stress experienced by children is actually caused more mundanely by the kinds of testing and performance measurement pressures forced on schools by current policy priorities. ‘The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health,’ he argues.
Mindfulness training, this article argues, is a biopolitical human enhancement strategy. Its goal is to insulate youth from pathologies that stem from digital capitalism’s economisation of attention. I use Bernard Stiegler’s Platonic depiction of the ambiguousness of all attention channelling mechanisms as pharmaka-containing both poison and cure-to suggest that this training is a double-edged sword. Does the inculcation of mindfulness in schoolchildren empower them; or is it merely an exercise in pathology-proofing them in their capacity as the next generation of unpaid digital labourers? The answer, I maintain, depends on whether young people can use the Internet’s political potentialities to mitigate the exploitation of their unpaid online labour time.