Bit Tyrants: The Political Economy of Silicon Valley
“Highly informed, lively and readable, this is a badly needed study of the giant high tech corporations that increasingly dominate the means of work and social interaction, amass and scrutinize the details of our lives, seek to shape attitudes and behavior, and like the great virtual monopolies of the past both rely on state power and heavily influence it. Beyond exposing the nature of this awesome and threatening system, Larson goes on to outline how it can, and should, be brought under popular control. A most valuable contribution to understanding and guide to action.” —Noam Chomsky
If the stories they tell about themselves are to be believed, all of the tech giants—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon—were built from the ground up through hard work, a few good ideas, and the entrepreneurial daring to seize an opportunity when it presented itself. Bit Tyrants provides an urgent corrective to this froth of board room marketing copy that is so often passed off as analysis. For fans of corporate fairy-tales there are no shortage of official histories that celebrate the innovative genius of Steve Jobs, liberal commentators who fall over themselves to laud Bill Gates’s selfless philanthropy or politicians who will tell us to listen to Mark Zuckerberg for advice on how to protect our democracy from foreign influence.
In this highly unauthorized account of the Big Five’s origins, Rob Larson sets the record straight, and in the process shreds every focus-grouped bromide about corporate benevolence he could get his hands on. Those readers unwilling to smile and nod as every day we become more dependent on our phones and apps to do our chores, our jobs, and our socializing can take heart as Larson provides us with maps to all the shallow graves, skeleton filled closets, and invective laced emails Big Tech left behind on its ascent to power. His withering analysis will help readers crack the code of the economic dynamics that allowed these companies to become near-monopolies very early on, and, with a little bit of luck, his calls for digital socialism might just inspire a viral movement for online revolution.
Rob Larson is a professor of economics at Tacoma Community College. His articles appear in In These Times, Dollars & Sense, and Jacobin. He is the author of Bleakonomics, Capitalism vs. Freedom and Bit Tyrants: The Political Economy of Silicon Valley.