The state has lost control: tech firms now run western politics

Evgeny Morozov

Finally, technology firms – thanks to data they collect – can always position themselves as essential to fighting the terrorist threat. For every Tim Cook fighting the FBI, there’s a Peter Thiel, the famed venture capitalist and the chairman of Palantir, a $20bn machine-learning giant that caters to the defence establishment. In a recent interview, Thiel even boasted that Palantir’s technology had helped thwart terrorist attacks.

The grim reality of contemporary politics is not that it’s impossible to imagine how capitalism will end – as the Marxist critic Fredric Jameson once famously put it – but that it’s becoming equally impossible to imagine how it could possibly continue, at least, not in its ideal form, tied, however weakly, to the democratic “polis”. The only solution that seems plausible is by having our political leaders transfer even more responsibility for problem-solving, from matters of welfare to matters of warfare, to Silicon Valley.

This might produce immense gains in efficiency but would this also not aggravate the democratic deficit that already plagues our public institutions? Sure, it would – but the crisis of democratic capitalism seems so acute that it has dropped any pretension to being democratic; hence the proliferation of euphemisms to describe the new normal (with Angela Merkel’s “market-conformed democracy” probably being the most popular one).