Contemporary Subscription

June 2020

Originally published by Haymarket Books

Bit Tyrants

The Political Economy of Silicon Valley

Rob Larson

Paperback

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'Highly informed, lively and readable, this is a badly-needed study of the giant high tech corporations that increasingly dominate work and social interaction, and seek to shape attitudes and behavior. Exposing the nature of this awesome and threatening system, Larson outlines how it can be brought under popular control' —Noam Chomsky

If the stories they tell about themselves are to be believed, all of the tech giants—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon—were built from the ground up through hard work, a few good ideas, and the entrepreneurial daring to seize an opportunity when it presented itself.

For fans of corporate fairy-tales there are no shortage of official histories that celebrate the innovative genius of Steve Jobs, or politicians who will tell us to listen to Mark Zuckerberg for advice on how to protect our democracy from foreign influence.

In this highly unauthorized account of the Big Five's origins, Rob Larson sets the record straight, and in the process shreds every focus-grouped platitude about corporate benevolence he could get his hands on. Those readers unwilling to smile and nod as every day we become more dependent on our phones and apps to do our chores, our jobs, and our socializing can take heart as Larson provides us with maps to all the shallow graves and skeleton-filled closets Big Tech left behind on its ascent to power. His withering analysis will help readers crack the code of the economic dynamics that allowed these companies to become near-monopolies very early on, and, with a little bit of luck, his calls for digital socialism might just inspire a viral movement for online revolution.

Rob Larson is Professor of Economics at Tacoma Community College and author of Bleakonomics. He writes for Jacobin.

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