ESSAYS AND STUDIES
CONTROL OVER BIOPOWER IN COGNITIVE AND SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM
Biopower is a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it, and rearticulating it. Power can achieve an effective command over the entire life of the population only when it becomes an integral, vital function that every individual embraces and reactivates of his or her own accord. Biopower points out the moment when human life explicitly became part of the political calculations. Beyond the regime of sovereignty, oriented by a logic of repression, emerges a new regime, oriented by a logic of production and control, that is, a power “to make live” or “to let die”. For Negri and Hardt biopower constitutes social relations, inserting individuals and populations in a circuit of value, obedience, and utility. In cognitive capitalism capital presents itself as biopower. The point is that capitalism is not only an economic mode of production, but also a mode of life production, a mode of subjectivation. Therefore, it is not only about the reproduction of capital, but also about the reproduction of subjects, the effective producers of economic value.
We are facing with the tendency of capital’s invasion of bios, the becoming- of-capital-biopower, to introduce the concept of biocapitalism. However, it is in this context that biopower and biopolitics must be seen as working together with other technologies of power – repressive and disciplinary power – which operate more directly on the body and on subjectivity.
To the new forms of conflict are linked with new forms of power: from cognitive warfare to sharp power. Through cognitive conflict and sharp power strategies, we are witnessing an epochal change, an IT revolution that brings political conflict into a digital dimension, which acts on the ground of public opinion, politics and economics, control and conditioning of knowledge, of our world view and of facts.
Zuboff introduces the concept of surveillance-based capitalism implemented via sophisticated algorithms of BigTech companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Meta, and others). Digital networks do not only collect data on users, but they “cluster” these users with the help of algorithms and encourage specific desired behaviors. Then, the patterns of these behaviors are stored (as raw material of a kind) in Big Data and sold further as commodity (behavioral surplus) on the market. A persons “digital behavior” thus becomes a market subject in various ways.
It is ubiquitous, sensate, computational, and global and it is designed so that all human activity, from the most banal to the boldest, can be monitored, measured, and modified for the purposes of surveillance capitalism
This capacity to “shape human behavior”, gives rise to what Zuboff calls “instrumentarian power” This is not dissimilar to forms of governmentality described by Foucault, because its goal is not just the “conduct of conduct” rather it is to turn people themselves into highly predictable instruments of political or material consumption. As a new form of subtle and sophisticated despotism, data are used by agencies as predictive products about our future behaviors, information that allows to control a market, but also the space for political decision-making and legitimacy, and, therefore become a huge power. Predictive behavioral surplus sources are increased and enhanced to guide, advise and lead people to behaviors, which they believe free, which actually aim for the greater profit of surveillance capitalists.
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