Break or Continuity? Friedrich Engels and the Critique of Digital Surveillance


Kivotidis, D. 2021. Break or Continuity? Friedrich Engels and the Critique of Digital Surveillance. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism and Critique. 19 (1), pp. 97-112.
AuthorsKivotidis, D.

This paper is a contribution to the argument that Engels’s work remains topical and may provide us with the analytical tools necessary to approach contemporary manifestations of capitalist contradictions. Based on Engels’s work on political economy (with emphasis on his contribution to the labour theory of value and the articulation of the law on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall) it will critically review the concept of “surveillance capitalism” as developed by Shoshana Zuboff, in order to explain central aspects of the process of digital surveillance. In particular, it will criticise the view expressed by Zuboff that surveillance capitalism constitutes a break with capitalism’s past and can be tamed through an enhancement of democratic accountability and regulation. Marxist contributions to the critique of digital surveillance have already approached this phenomenon in a many-sided manner. This paper builds upon these contributions and suggests that the exponential growth of digital platforms can be explained as a direct result of the development of capitalist contradictions, especially the contradiction between productive forces and relations of production as expressed in the law of the falling rate of profit.

JournaltripleC: Communication, Capitalism and Critique
Journal citation19 (1), pp. 97-112
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
Online27 Nov 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Oct 2020
Deposited02 Dec 2020
Copyright holder© 2021 The Author
Permalink -

Download files

Publisher's version
1213-Article Text-5232-1-10-20201127.pdf
License: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
File access level: Anyone

  • 88
    total views
  • 82
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 2
    downloads this month

Export as