The Value System


The Internet and Radical Change in a Time of Crisis

The audience is not the same as it once was in the 1900s. Our global context has also dramatically changed. Climate change is creating conditions of impending civilizational collapse, and hundreds of millions of Internet-enabled citizens have greatly expanded communicative freedoms and productive, distributive, and collective capabilities. How will these forces interact in a world defined by authoritarian governments, ineffective democracies, and crisis-ridden economies?

In The Value System Michael Strangelove explores phenomena as diverse as Ikea, global consumer culture, the Chinese Internet, environmental policy, biodiversity, amateur creativity, digital piracy, subversion, and resistance – all set in a context of a global value system that presents humanity with the options of unconstrained growth, mass extinction, or radical change.

Strangelove offers a critique of pessimistic Marxist theory and argues that our expanded communicative capabilities remain a significant countervailing force to dominant institutions and elite privilege. China and Twitter provide insight into how Internet audiences exist simultaneously within domains of high and low control. Through online conversation, subversive cultural production, and street-level activism, Chinese citizens demonstrate the limits to totalitarian control.

The ecological impact of the Internet is brought into the centre of media theory and social analysis. Climate change provides a global and authoritative measurement of capitalism’s value system and its consequences. Strangelove argues that the worst consequences of climate change can be resolved only if we correct the toxic character of capitalism’s value system and build new value systems out of the raw cultural material of cyberspace. The Internet moves amateur cultural production, unconstrained speech, and heretical values into the centre of history.

Beginning with the argument that capitalism aligns individual thought and action to its needs, The Value System concludes with a theory of how the Internet mediates radical change across social, political, and economic areas of action. Human behaviour strongly suggests that there is something that drives us to use the Internet, an instinct for freedom. Contrary to conventional wisdom, cyberspace may yet remain the paragon of freedom in a world driven mad with authoritarian states and markets.