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Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism
by Yanis Varoufakis


Yanis Varoufakis argues that capitalism is dead and has been replaced by technofeudalism, a system dominated by a new ruling class of cloudalists. This new system is characterized by the rise of cloud capital, a mutated form of capital that has transcended its traditional role as a means of production.

Key Concepts:

  • Cloud Capital: A new form of capital that is not tied to physical assets but exists as a network of algorithms, software, data warehouses, and communication infrastructure. It has an unprecedented power to command and modify human behavior, both online and offline.
  • Cloudalists: The new ruling class of technofeudalism, individuals who own and control cloud capital. They have the ability to extract massive rents from those who use their cloud fiefs (e.g., Amazon, Google, Facebook) and from traditional capitalists who rely on cloud platforms to reach customers.
  • Cloud Fiefs: Digital platforms, like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, that are controlled by cloudalists and operate like feudal fiefs, where users (cloud serfs) provide unpaid labor and traditional capitalists (vassal capitalists) pay rent for access to markets.
  • Cloud Proles: Waged laborers who are increasingly subjected to algorithmic control in workplaces like Amazon warehouses.
  • Cloud Serfs: Individuals who, often unwittingly, provide free labor to enhance cloud capital by generating data, content, and attention.

How it Happened:

  • The Global Minotaur: The breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 created a global financial order where America's trade deficit became a powerful tool for its economic dominance, attracting capital flows to Wall Street. This "Minotaur" fueled financialization and ultimately set the stage for the rise of cloud capital.
  • The Crash of 2008: The Great Financial Crisis led to unprecedented state intervention in the form of money printing and bailouts for banks. This fueled further financialization but also created the conditions for cloud capital to emerge and thrive.
  • The Internet Commons: The internet, originally a non-commercial network, was privatized by Big Tech companies, creating the conditions for cloud capital to exploit.

Key Impacts of Technofeudalism:

  • The Death of Profit: The abundance of central bank money has made profit largely irrelevant for cloudalists, who can accumulate wealth through cloud rents and by leveraging the free labor of cloud serfs.
  • The Rise of Rents: Technofeudalism has seen a resurgence of rent, the defining economic trait of feudalism, replacing profit as the primary driver of value.
  • The Death of the Liberal Individual: Technofeudalism has eroded the concept of the liberal individual by commodifying personal data and attention, shaping individual behavior and blurring the lines between personal and professional life.
  • The New Cold War: The emergence of China as a rival cloud capital power has led to a new geopolitical conflict between the US and China, characterized by economic warfare and a struggle for dominance over global cloud finance.
  • The End of Social Democracy: The rise of cloud capital has made it difficult for social democratic governments to regulate and restrain the power of the cloudalists, as their economic and political power is vast and difficult to control.
  • The Climate Crisis: The pursuit of cloud rent and the global division into competing cloud fiefs pose significant obstacles to addressing climate change effectively.

The Way Forward:

Varoufakis proposes a technodemocracy as an alternative to technofeudalism, a system based on:

  • Democratized Companies: Employee-owned corporations where all decisions are made democratically.
  • Democratized Money: A central bank-issued digital currency and a basic dividend for all citizens, with a system of levies to counter trade imbalances and speculative capital flows.
  • A Cloud Rebellion: A global coalition of cloud serfs, cloud proles, and vassal capitalists, uniting to disrupt and reclaim control over the cloud.

Varoufakis concludes that while the future is uncertain, the potential for a positive change exists, but requires a fundamental shift in our thinking and collective action to reclaim our minds and create a more just and sustainable future.