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How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

by Robert W. McChesney

Pub Date: March 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59558-867-8
Publisher: New Press

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.