Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

by Robert W. McChesney
     
 

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Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the digital world.

McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, PoorSee more details below

Overview

Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the digital world.

McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age, incorporating capitalism into the heart of his analysis. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems, and other policies and massive indirect subsidies have made the Internet a place of numbing commercialism. A small handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners an astonishing 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers. This capitalistic colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism, and made the Internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance, and a disturbingly anti-democratic force.

In Digital Disconnect Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking analysis and critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Filtering the internet through a lens of political economy and free-market capitalism, acclaimed author and University of Illinois professor McChesney (Rich Media, Poor Democracy) presents a thorough and alarming critique of the corruption of one of the most influential inventions in human history. "People thought the Internet would be... a non-commercial zone, a genuine public sphere, leading to far greater public awareness, stronger communities, and greater political participation," McChesney observes. "To the contrary... the internet has been commercialized, copyrighted, patented, privatized, data-inspected, and monopolized." He deconstructs capitalism through its historical trends before painting a grim portrait of corporate concentration and monopolization; it reads like dystopian science-fiction where giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon further entrench their market dominance, attempting to own consumers' "every waking moment," aided and abetted by lax government enforcement and deregulation. Such concentrated power brings with it a host of concerns; however, as McChesney cites, very little public opposition to such power can be expected as, "people care more about what unjustly harms them than what unjustly benefits them." Instead, we face the very real possibility of discovering the "digital revolution... to have been a revolution in name only"; the consequences of which are already revealing themselves.
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From the Publisher

Advance Praise for Digital Disconnect:

"Once again, McChesney stands at the crossroads of media dysfunction and the denial of democracy, illuminating the complex issues involved and identifying a path forward to try to repair the damage. Here's hoping the rest of us have the good sense to listen this time."
—Eric Alterman, professor of English and journalism, Brooklyn College, CUNY

“McChesney penetrates to the heart of the issue: Change the System/Change the Internet. Both/And—not Either/Or. Indispensable reading as we lay groundwork for the coming great movement to reclaim America.”
—Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, and professor of political economy, University of Maryland

“A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States. . . . a valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Too often discussions about the democratic potential of the digital revolution treat the Internet and related communication technologies as if they existed in a vacuum. Digital Disconnect disabuses us of this notion, making a convincing case that one can only understand these technologies and how they are used through the lens of political economy, and that the capitalist political economy in which they are currently embedded in the United States is anathema to a truly democratic information environment.”
—Michael X. DelliCarpini, dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

“A major new work by one of the nation’s leading analysts of media... . Steering between the treacherous Scylla and Charbydis of Internet boosters and skeptics, McChesney shows how the economic context of the digital environment is making the difference between an open and democratic internet, and one which is manipulated for private gain. A hard-to-put-down, meticulously researched must-read.”
—Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale,High-Satisfaction Economy

“If you’re concerned about democracy or the direction of the Internet, this is the book for you! With a panoramic sweep and profound insights, McChesney rings the alarm bells, showing clearly how capitalism is swallowing up the promise of the Internet. No one knows this field better than McChesney, and with this book he has reached the pinnacle.”
—Matthew Rothschild, editor, The Progressive

“Over the past twenty years, the world has experienced both a profound communications revolution delivered by the internet and an equally profound rise in economic inequality and instability delivered by neoliberal capitalism. Digital Disconnect explores the connections between these epoch-defining trends with clarity, depth, originality, and verve. Robert W. McChesney advances a strong case that achieving the potential of the internet as a force for good requires nothing less than unshackling it from the capitalist social order now defining its trajectory.”
—Robert Pollin, professor of economics and co-director, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Kirkus Reviews
A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States. Writing from a liberal viewpoint, McChesney (Communication/Univ. of Illinois; Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media, 2007, etc.) argues that an economic system designed to produce "endless profits by any means necessary" has undermined the democratic potential of the Internet. "For all of the digital revolution's accomplishments, it has failed to deliver much of the promise that was once seen as inherent in the technology," he writes, echoing words that many readers will recall hearing about the failed early promise of TV broadcasting. Rather than becoming a noncommercial zone that builds greater political participation and ends widespread inequality and corporate monopolies, the Internet has been commercialized and monopolized. Drawing on the research of critics and scholars, the author traces the many ways in which wealthy interests have shaped the Internet and adversely affected American society, promoting inequality and hypercommercialism. Specific topics include the decline in enforcement of antitrust laws, the increase in patents on digital technology, and the dominance of Google, Microsoft and other firms. McChesney builds on his earlier work to detail the many ways in which the Internet has harmed professional journalism and limited the vital watchdog role of American newspapers, which have lost their allure for profit-seeking investors. The author concludes that reforms will not save the democratic promise of the Internet; rather, Americans must spur the rise of a new political economy based on nonprofit and noncommercial institutions. A valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595588913
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
03/05/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
464,126
File size:
1 MB

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