Technofeudalism: What killed capitalism
Bodley Head, $36.99 pb, 282 pp
In Technofeudalism: What killed capitalism, Yanis Varoufakis wrestles with questions which are giddying in their significance. Do the profound changes we see taking place around us now, in our digital age, amount to a fundamentally new form of society? If so, what kind of society is it? And what, if anything, should we do about it?
As the title of his work suggests, Varoufakis writes within a Marxist tradition and intellectual framework. He believes that capitalism itself is kaput. It has been ‘superseded’ not by communism, as Karl Marx prophesied, but by technofeudalism, a ‘far, far uglier social reality’ than capitalism.
Varoufakis writes ‘to explain my thinking in a book if for no other reason than to give friends and foes outraged by my theory a chance to disparage it properly having perused it in full’. The humility and sense of irony evident here are characteristic, as is the trace of courage. Appealingly, Varoufakis does not claim to be advancing some revelation of economic or technological science, and nor does he ignore the need to connect rhetorically and experientially with his readers, or shrink from offering, in good faith, his assessment of contemporary operations of power.
Our world can best be understood now as a technofeudal one, he argues, because those who own the server cloud, the ‘cloudalists’, have become more wealthy and powerful, from rent, than those who own and profit from capital, from business: ‘It is this fundamental fact – that we have entered a socio-economic system powered not by profit but by rent – that demands we use a new term to describe it.’