Karl Marx believed that the product of human labor was separate from and hostile toward its maker. The same might be said of the product of our commercial activities on the Internet. You might not believe that your institutional doppelgänger works against you, but it does not seem like a stretch to argue that the sum of your activity as a consumer—your social-media posts, credit history, the freakishly accurate profile advertisers have of you—is its own creature, and can move about independently of you. You can also assign any number of automated tasks to your doppelgänger, which it will perform tirelessly.

Think about this – ways in which Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor can now be extended to consumption.

The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf,” The New Yorker, March 27, 2014



Karl Marx belie…


One thought on “Karl Marx belie…

  1. I see capitalist society almost the same exact way that Marx did. The collection of consumer data can easily be painted as an obvious course of action which benefits everyone. “If corporations understand people’s behavior, they can better meet their needs, which will make coveted goods and services readily available and stimulate our economy.” And so on. It’s a way for wealthy individuals to access information that allows them to avoid business risks, sorting people’s demands into markets that can be easily identified and tapped. The worst way I can think of your doppelganger exploiting you is purely economic: It reveals your willingness to pay to suppliers of goods and services. Hey! That’s my consumer surplus you’re messing with there! We do not live in a culture of haggling as much as other countries do, which means the price setter sets the price and you either take it or you don’t. Any information they have about us, beyond a record of what they’ve sold, may give companies an unfair advantage over consumers. While I believe that banks have a right to test your worthiness so that they can safely make money selling loans, is it right to let credit card companies know all about you so that they can mail you an offer for a short-term loan that THEY think is fair? How about you at least wait to see if I’m willing and able to buy a loan from you in the first place? You’re not using my information to protect yourself, you’re using it to advertise. By this logic, I should be able to read the information about your company that only your shareholders have access to before I ever set foot in your establishment. Maybe I’m off-base with this, but I feel like if the point of capitalism is productive competition, don’t stack the friggin’ deck. Give me a chance to win.

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