Google’s practices are a new form of capitalism.
Google is to surveillance capitalism what the Ford Motor Company and General Motors were to mass-production–based managerial capitalism. New economic logics and their commercial models are discovered by people in a time and place and then perfected through trial and error. In our time Google became the pioneer, discoverer, elaborator, experimenter, lead practitioner, role model, and diffusion hub of surveillance capitalism. GM and Ford’s iconic status as pioneers of twentieth-century capitalism made them enduring objects of scholarly research and public fascination because the lessons they had to teach resonated far beyond the individual companies. Google’s practices deserve the same kind of examination, not merely as a critique of a single company but rather as the starting point for the codification of a powerful new form of capitalism.
In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence. And not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of importance alive and alert but it is scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's self-complacency.… Abstention from labor is the conventional evidence of wealth and is therefore the conventional mark of social standing; and this insistence on the meritoriousness of wealth leads to a more strenuous insistence on leisure.[...] According to well-established laws of human nature, prescription presently seizes upon this conventional evidence of wealth and fixes it in men's habits of thoughts as something that is itself substantially meritorious and ennobling.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.
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