As the holiday season drives a surge in consumer spending, former Greek Minister of Economics Yanis Varoufakis makes a bold claim about the demise of capitalism. In a recent episode of the Euronews Business podcast series, “My Wildest Prediction,” Varoufakis discusses the alleged death of capitalism and the rise of “technofeudalism” with host Tom Goodwin.
Varoufakis contends that capitalism has already ended, attributing its demise to technological giants such as Amazon and Alibaba. In his newly released book, “Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism,” he explores the concept of a new societal order resembling feudalism, where big tech owners act as modern lords and users as vassals, surrendering data in exchange for services.
In the podcast, Varoufakis parallels the traditional feudal system, characterised by hierarchical landownership and obligations, and the contemporary relationship between big tech and users. He asserts that the lords of this “technofeudalism” are the owners of significant tech corporations, with users serving as vassals who exchange data for services.
Varoufakis uses Amazon as an example, claiming that it operates more like a “cloud fiefdom” under Jeff Bezos, where a sizable portion of each transaction goes towards the tech tycoon’s wealth accumulation.
Varoufakis laments the loss of autonomy and freedom in this new order, contrasting it with the life his father led. In a letter to his late father, a steel factory worker, Varoufakis conveys his envy for a time when individuals could maintain a sense of self-determination and freedom within the confines of their lives.
Despite the grim outlook, Varoufakis discusses potential solutions that are not solely technological but sociopolitical. He suggests ending free services to break the dominance of big tech, proposing a direct payment model between users and apps to avoid indirect revenue through advertising. Additionally, he advocates for changes in corporate law to enhance democracy within companies, envisioning a system where every employee holds a non-tradable share of voting rights.
Varoufakis believes these sociopolitical changes could lead to a more equitable distribution of power and financial rewards within large companies, potentially revolutionising both the share and labour markets. However, he acknowledges the challenges and remains cautiously hopeful, emphasising individuals’ responsibility in shaping technology’s impact on society.
As the holiday shopping season continues, Varoufakis’ provocative claims add a unique perspective to the ongoing discourse on the societal implications of technological advancements. The podcast episode delves into the potential future beyond capitalism and raises questions about the role of technology in shaping our economic and social landscapes.