Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media

Fuchs, Christian. 2015. Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media. New York: Routledge. 424 pages.
ISBN Paperback 978-1-13-883931-1
ISBN Hardcover 978-1-13-883929-8

“Culture and Economy…” is the second volume of a two-book-long analysis of digital labour. See also the first volume “Digital Labour and Karl Marx“. The two books should best be read in combination.

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20% discount on “Culture and Economy…” and the related book “Digital Labour and Karl Marx” by ordering on Routledge’s website: See here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding social media requires us to engage with the individual and collective meanings that diverse stakeholders and participants give to platforms. It also requires us to analyse how social media companies try to make profits, how and which labour creates this profit, who creates social media ideologies, and the conditions under which such ideologies emerge. In short, understanding social media means coming to grips with the relationship between culture and the economy. In this thorough study, Christian Fuchs, one of the leading analysts of the Internet and social media, delves deeply into the subject by applying the approach of cultural materialism to social media, offering readers theoretical concepts, contemporary examples, and proposed opportunities for political intervention.

Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media is the ultimate resource for anyone who wants to understand culture and the economy in an era populated by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google in the West and Weibo, Renren, and Baidu in the East. Updating the analysis of thinkers such as Raymond Williams, Karl Marx, Ferruccio Rossi- Landi, Jürgen Habermas, and Dallas W. Smythe for the twenty-first century, Fuchs presents a version of Marxist cultural theory and cultural materialism that allows us to critically understand social media’s influence on culture and the economy.

If you have interest in this book, then you may also be interested in the related book Digital Labour and Karl Marx.

“This book is a tour de force. Drawing on a comprehensive re-reading of Marx and critical theory, Christian Fuchs demonstrates how everyday activity on social media is integral to the system of global exploitation that is restructuring contemporary capitalism. His powerful critique of the promotional rhetorics surrounding the Internet and his call for action deserves to be read and debated by anyone seriously interested in the future directions of economic and cultural life.”
— Graham Murdock, Professor of Culture and Economy, Loughborough University

“Drawing inspiration from Raymond Williams and Dallas Smythe, Christian Fuchs turns his critical eye and formidable talents to the deep connections between culture and economy in the age of social media. Rich in conceptual insights and supported with prodigious empirical detail covering labour and consumption in the West and in China, Fuchs’s book points the way to how we might retake public control of the digital world.”
— Vincent Mosco, author of To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World

“Christian Fuchs’s excellent book demonstrates why social media must be analysed critically as both an economic and a cultural phenomenon, unlike the conservatism of idealist social science, which has much to say about communication yet is silent about the materiality of communications.”
— Jim McGuigan, author of Cool Capitalism

Review copy request: To request a review or examination copy email the request, your postal address, phone number, and the details of the journal for which you will review respectively the course in which you will adopt the book to  review.copy@taylorandfrancis.com

Related educational material:

Video of the book launch: Elihu Katz Lecture “Raymond Williams, Dallas Smythe, and Herbert Marcuse in the Age of Social Media” at the Annenberg School for Communication on January 23, 2015  Video; see also:  Version 2 (Multimedia Institute, Zagreb, Croatia, May 9, 2015)

New Books in Critical Theory: Interview conducted by Dave O’Brien Audio
Video of the talk “Digital Labour Theory of Value and Karl Marx in the Age of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Weibo” (related to Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media’s chapter 5) Video
Video of the talk “Theorising Digital Labour. A Cultural-Materialist Perspective” (related to “Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media”‘s chapters 2/3/4/6 Video
Video of the talk “Social Media and the Public Sphere” (related to “Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media”‘s chapter 8 Video
Interview about social media and contemporary politics Video
Interview about studying the political economy of the media, the Internet and digital labour HTML

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Introduction

PART I: Theoretical Foundations

2.  Culture and Work
Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval

3.  Communication, Ideology, and Labour

PART II: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Time

4.  Social Media and Labour Time
5.  Social Media and Productive Labour

PART III: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Global Space

6.  Social Media’s International Division of Digital Labour
7.  Baidu, Weibo, and Renren: The Global Political Economy of Social Media in China

PART IV: Alternatives

8. Social Media and the Public Sphere
9. Conclusion

Detailed Table of Contents

List of Figures 

List of Tables

1. Introduction

PART I: Theoretical Foundations

2.  Culture and Work
Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Cultural Materialism
2.3. A Materialist Notion of Cultural Work
2.4. Cultural Work and Cultural Labour in Modern Society
2.5. A Typology of the Dimensions of Working Conditions
2.6. Why the Notion of Anti-Work Is Mistaken and Why We Need to Repeat William Morris and Herbert Marcuse Today
2.7. Conclusion

3.  Communication, Ideology, and Labour
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Work/Communication-Dualism: Hegel, Jürgen Habermas, and Klaus Holzkamp on Communication and Work
3.3. Communication as a Form of Work
3.4. Ideological Labour and Critical Work
3.5. Conclusion

PART II: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Time

4.  Social Media and Labour Time
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Time and Matter
4.3. Time and Capitalist Society
4.4. Time and the Capitalist Economy
4.5. Social Media and Changing Capitalist Times
4.6. Conclusion 

5.  Social Media and Productive Labour
5.1. Introduction
5.1.1. Hegel’s Dialectic of Possibilities and Actuality
5.1.2. Marx’s Concept of Value
5.2. Marx’s Concept of Productive Labour
5.2.1. Productive Labour (1): Work That Produces Use-Values
5.2.2. Produtive Labour (2): Labour That Produces Capital and Surplus-Value for Accumulation
5.2.2.1. Productive Labour (2) Directly Produces Surplus-Value
5.2.2.2. In Productive Labour (2), There Is a Surplus-Product, i.e. an Unpaid Part of the Working Day
5.2.2.3. Productive Labour (2) Directly Produces Capital
5.2.2.4. Productive Labour (2) Produces Commodities
5.2.2.5. In Productive Labour (2), Capital Is Accumulated Based on the Product and Value the Worker Creates
5.2.2.6. Examples of Un/productive Labour (2)
5.2.3. Productive Labour (3): Labour of the Combined/ Collective Worker: Work that Contributes to the Production of Surplus-Value and Capital
5.2.4. Capital, Volume 2: Circulation Work and the Special Productive Role of Transport Workers
5.3. Facebook and Productive Labour in the Capitalist Economy as a Whole
5.3.1. Advertising and Capitalism
5.3.2. Targeted Advertising and Prosumer Labour on the Internet
5.4. Facebook and Rent
5.4.1. How Did Marx Conceive Rent?
5.4.2. The Becoming-Rent of Profit
5.4.3. Facebook as a Rent-Seeking Organisation?
5.5. Productive Labour as Wage Labour in the Digital Labour Debate
5.6. Politics, Ideology, and Fetishism in the Context of Digital Labour
5.7. Conclusion

PART III: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Global Space

6.  Social Media’s International Division of Digital Labour
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Marx and Engels on Modes of Production
6.3. Slave Mineral Workers in the IDDL
6.4. Foxconn: ICT Assemblage in China
6.5. Work in the Indian Software Industry
6.6. Call Centre Work
6.7. Software Engineering at Google and the Silicon Valley of Nightmares
6.8. Digital Labour and Online Prosumption
6.9. Conclusion

7.  Baidu, Weibo, and Renren: The Global Political Economy of Social Media in China
7.1. Introduction
7.2. The Development of the Chinese Economy
7.2.1. Data on the Chinese Economy
7.2.2. The Chinese Information Economy
7.2.3. China and Capitalism
7.2.3.1. Position 1: China Is Not a Capitalist Country, but a Socialist Market Economy
7.2.3.2. Position 2: China is a Capitalist Society with Specific Characteristics
7.2.4 Tendencies in the Development of China’s Economy
7.3. Capitalist Social Media in China: A Comparative Analysis
7.3.1. Search Engines: Baidu and Google
7.3.2. Microblogs: Sina Weibo and Twitter
7.3.3. Social Networking Sites: Renren and Facebook
7.3.4. Corporate Social Media in China and the West
7.4. China and Social Media Ideologies
7.5. Towards an Alternative Internet and Truly Social Media in China and the World
7.6. Conclusion
Appendix 7.1: Mapping of Forbes 2000’s Industry Categories to Economic Sectors

PART IV: Alternatives

8. Social Media and the Public Sphere
8.1. Introduction
8.2. The Concept of the Public Sphere
8.3. The Media and the Public Sphere
8.4. The Internet, Social Media, and the Public Sphere
8.5. Towards Alternative Social Media as a Public Sphere

9. Conclusion

Excerpt:

1. Introduction

Social media has become a common term for signifying the usage of social networking sites, microblogs, blogs, (user-generated) content sharing sites, or wikis. The question of which media are social and which are not is often asked when people discuss social media. And how to answer this question depends on how one defines what it means to be social—engaging with thoughts of others, communicating, engaging in communities, co-operative work, etc. (Fuchs 2014b, chapter 2). Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Baidu, Renren, Weibo, WeChat, or

WhatsApp are some of the most well-known social media. Large, transnational corporations operate them: Facebook Inc. (Facebook, WhatsApp), Twitter Inc., Google Inc. (YouTube), Sina Corp (Weibo), Tencent (WeChat), Baidu Inc. (Baidu), and Renren Inc (Renren). Targeted advertising finances many of these online platforms. The companies that run them are the largest advertising agen- cies in the world that have access to millions or billions of users’ personal data.

Understanding social media requires us to engage with the individual and collective meanings that users, platform owners/CEOs/shareholders, companies, advertisers, politicians, and other observers give to these platforms. It also requires us to analyse how the companies operating social media try to make profits; how and which labour creates this profit; the development, contradictions, and crisis tendencies of the social media market; who creates social media ideologies; the conditions under which such ideologies emerge, etc. Understanding social media means coming to grips with the relationship of culture and the economy.

This book takes a fresh look at how we can best think about the connection of culture and the economy. It provides theoretical concepts, application examples, and political interventions for understanding culture and the economy in times of social media.

When observers such as consultants, managers, journalists, analysts, scholars, and intellectuals talk about “the economy”, they often focus on discussing the growth/stagnation/shrinkage of the gross domestic product, market develop- ments, innovations, international competition, profits, revenues, prices, etc. and tend to care less about working conditions. This is partly because they assume that people are doing well if the economy is doing well. This can, however, not be taken for granted. The approach taken in this book and by critical political economists is different because they assume that all the just-mentioned phenom- ena are created by labour and that it therefore matters a lot to look at how people work and the conditions under which they do so. This book has therefore a special focus on the relationship of labour and culture. But talking about labour means in contemporary society that one also has to talk about non-labour — capital — and the relationship between the two — class. So we have to focus on culture and capitalism for understanding contemporary social media.

Part I focuses on theoretical foundations. Part II is about specific questions that concern social media’s temporalities. It focuses on social media’s cultural political economy of time. Part III takes a global view on the world of social and digital media. Its focus is on social media’s cultural political economy of global space. Part IV talks about alternatives to social media controlled by private companies and state institutions.

Each part consists of two chapters that each discuss a specific question:

Part I: Theoretical Foundations
Chapter 2: How are culture and labour connected?
Chapter 3: How are ideology and labour connected?

Part II: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Time
Chapter 4: What is the role of labour time in the value creation on social media?

Chapter 5:How is value created on social media?
Part III: Social Media’s Cultural Political Economy of Global Space
Chapter 6: Which forms of digital labour are there and how are they connected on a global level?
Chapter 7: How does the political economy of social media platforms (e.g. Baidu, Weibo, Renren) look like in China? 

Part IV: Alternatives
Chapter 8: What are alternatives to the existing problems of social media and can the notion of the public sphere help us to better understand social media alternatives and their requirements?
Chapter 9: Which conclusions can we draw from the presented chapters for understanding social media’s culture and economy?

In his book Culture & Society: 1780–1950, Raymond Williams studies British literature in the context of the rise of capitalism, which is framed by the fact that “the concept of culture, in its modern senses, came through at the time of the Industrial Revolution” (Williams 1958, ix). Whereas Williams focused on an analysis of the works of authors such as George Eliot, George Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, or George Orwell, this book is about contemporary social media such as Google, Baidu, Twitter, Weibo, Facebook, and Renren. Literature is as alive today as it was in the nineteenth century and written expression has taken on additional forms such as the blog. What has not changed, however, is that just like in the late eighteenth and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that Williams studied, in the twenty-first century, which is the temporal context of this book, we still live in a capitalist society. Capitalism is the major context for twenty-first-century social media just like it was for eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature and communication that Raymond Williams studied. We therefore require a critical political economy of media and culture for understanding historical and contemporary modes of communicative expression.

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