Category: political economy

Big Data: More ethics and social justice on the agenda?

Big Data: More ethics and social justice on the agenda?

Dr Annika Richterich’s new book The Big Data Agenda just published open access by the University of Westminster Press explores the entanglements between big technology corporations and big data research as significant ethical issues are being overlooked in the rush to monetise vast data sets. At once an overview of the emerging field of critical data studies the author considers in detail one big data research area – biomedical studies – drawing on the perspectives of discourse ethics and critical data studies.

The Big Data Agenda is the 6th title in the Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series. In addition to The Big Data Agenda the series (all open access) now consists of (in reverse order of publication) the following titles:

Series Editor: Christian Fuchs

Spectacle 2.0: Reading Debord in the Context of Digital Capitalism
edited by Marco Briziarelli and Emiliana Armano

Capital, State, Empire: The New American Way of Digital Warfare
Scott Timcke

Politicizing the Digital Sphere: Theory the Internet and Renewing Democracy
Trevor Garrison Smith

Knowledge in the Age of Digital Capitalism: An Introduction to Cognitive Materialism
Mariano Zukerfeld

Critical Theory of Communication: New Readings of Lukács, Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas in the Age of the Internet
Christian Fuchs








US Military Power and Financial Liquidity

US Military Power and Financial Liquidity

On the last day of the World Economic Forum in Davos an extract from Scott Timcke’s Capital, State, Empire offers a reminder of the interconnected worlds of the US military and international finance. From a section entitled ‘The Military Response to a ‘Global Power Shift’ this extract emphasises the role of the US navy as guarantor of the dominant incarnation of the ‘international order’. 

The purpose of the US Navy is not to expunge rivals, but to use the prospect of force to consolidate control over economic activity, and the standards and norms that govern that activity. David Graeber’s observations about military force and contemporary international political economy complement this view. He argues that a state can use their military power to control financial liquidity.

‘The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, drop bombs, with only a few hours’ notice, at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet. No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very power that holds the entire world military system, organized around the dollar, together’. (Graeber 2011, 365)

To elaborate, the US uses their money supply to act as an international reserve currency. Much like how once Britain established the gold standard, the network externalities and path dependency of British imperial rule meant that other states had to consider the benefits of monetary convergence, so too do states have to weigh the incentives of monetary convergence on the US dollar. This technique is particularly effective when there is ‘gunboat’ issuing of US treasury bonds as a form of tribute together with the aggressive deployment of financial instruments and institutions in rolling out and maintaining US hegemony.

Considered from this vantage, what appears as the loss of centralized US control of capital is rather a strategy of indirect extraction that involves demanding that other states pay tribute to the US. Within this order, transnational enterprises are enabled by US policy to further entrench indirect rule. In return, the US, through the Navy and other agencies, provides security to corporations to do business. This is accomplished through either rigging international treaties, capturing international organizations, or lobbying and bullying for favourable business relations in host countries. In short, the US security state seeks to create global governing structures to maintain a rule in which other countries must abide, and in which labour is suppressed, and surpluses are channelled to the US.


Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5000 Years. New York, NY: Melville House.

Capital, State, Empire: The New American Way of Digital Warfare is published open access, free to read and download by the University of Westminster Press. (July 2017)



Just released from UWP is a new title in the Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series that offers an analysis of the USA’s historical impulse to weaponize communication technologies. Scott Timcke explores the foundations of this impulse and how the militarization of digital society creates structural injustices and social inequalities. He analyses how new digital communication technologies support American paramountcy and conditions for worldwide capital accumulation. Identifying selected features of contemporary American society, Capital, State, Empire undertakes a materialist critique of this digital society and of the New American Way of War. At the same time it demonstrates how the American security state represses activists—such as Black Lives Matter—who resist this emerging security leviathan. The book also critiques the digital positivism behind the algorithmic regulation used to control labour and further diminish prospects for human flourishing for the ‘99%’.

All about COLLABORATIVE PRODUCTION, a new title from UWP

All about COLLABORATIVE PRODUCTION, a new title from UWP

How the impact of collaborative production has played out in creative industries is the topic of the fourth UWP book title. COLLABORATIVE PRODUCTION IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES edited by James Graham of Middlesex University and Alessandro Gandini of Kings College, London picks up the baton from such titles as Production Studies, The Sequel and Be Creative by Angela McRobbie and a variety of other titles discussing digital labour. The book focuses on the sociotechnical and aesthetic dimensions of collaborative creative work that have been somewhat overlooked and was developed out of work instigated by the Promotional Cultures Research Cluster at the University of Middlesex, UK. It looks at particular examples in film, television, publishing, art and social media collection in order to further a critical understanding of the integral role collaboration plays in contemporary media and culture. The book – itself a collaborative production from scholars based in the UK, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong and France is available to read and download for free.

FREE KNOWLEDGE! Critical Digital and Social Media Studies new title and event

FREE KNOWLEDGE! Critical Digital and Social Media Studies new title and event

KNOWLEDGE IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL CAPITALISM will be the second title in the CDSMS series available from May 26th for download here and purchase in print At a preview book launch event held at the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies on Friday May the 26th, Dr Zukerfeld will discuss ‘Capitalist Piracy? Creative Industries, “Free” Knowledge and Cognitive Exploitation. Drawing upon insights from his new book KNOWLEDGE IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL CAPITALISM: AN INTRODUCTION TO COGNITIVE MATERIALISM, Mariano Zukerfeld will discuss how the creative industries took off, how they were propelled by unremunerated knowledge, and how they continue to be so today. Conclusions are offered for discussion in respect to alternative approaches. The aim is to foster a fresh understanding of capitalist exploitation and of how the processes surrounding knowledge might inform future thought. Full details from WIAS.

Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis-  new WPCC issue

Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis- new WPCC issue

Exciting times for WESTMINSTER PAPERS IN COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE as a new audio commentary issue on the topic of Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis for a new era of is to be published in 2017 as January turns to February.

In the words of Dr Tarik Sabry in the edition’s editorial:

‘In an age of ongoing economic and political crisis, military conflict displacing millions of people and systems of governance and democracy in question, a reassessment of the questions posed by the disciplines of media and cultural studies is called for. Traditional paradigms for conceptualising the media are further challenged by shifts in the media environment resulting from the growth of digital and mobile media. This is a defining moment for the field and a time for reflection and re-evaluation.’

The contributors will be: Paddy Scannell, David Morley, Annabelle Sreberny, David Gauntlett, Paolo Gerbaudo, Anastasia Kavada, Jeremy Gilbert, Colin Sparks, Daya Thussu, Fernando Resende, Jaeoho Kang, Viola Milton, Wenshan Jia, Joanna Zylinska, Christian Fuchs and Kaarle Nordenstreng. Further details are available from WPCC’s home page.