The World Computer

Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: February 2021

Author: Jonathan Beller

Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Marxism

In The World Computer Jonathan Beller forcefully demonstrates that the history of commodification generates information itself. Out of the omnipresent calculus imposed by commodification, information emerges historically as a new money form. Investigating its subsequent financialization of daily life and colonization of semiotics, Beller situates the development of myriad systems for quantifying the value of people, objects, and affects as endemic to racial capitalism and computation. Built on oppression and genocide, capital and its technical result as computation manifest as racial formations, as do the machines and software of social mediation that feed racial capitalism and run on social difference. Algorithms, derived from for-profit management strategies, conscript all forms of expression—language, image, music, communication—into the calculus of capital such that even protest may turn a profit. Computational media function for the purpose of extraction rather than ameliorating global crises, and financialize every expressive act, converting each utterance into a wager. Repairing this ecology of exploitation, Beller contends, requires decolonizing information and money, and the scripting of futures wagered by the cultural legacies and claims of those in struggle.


“Tackling one of the most important issues in media and technology theory today—the intimate and ancient involvement between information and power—Jonathan Beller has written a bold book with intellectual originality, sociopolitical relevance, and evocative power.” — Alexander R. Galloway, author of Laruelle: Against the Digital

“In The World Computer, Jonathan Beller charts the lineage and lineaments of ‘computational racial capital.’ In the code-based mode of capitalist production now consolidating itself with hegemonic reach, the image replaces the commodity as the fundamental value form, and as it does the meaning of labor mutates. Racism, Beller argues, is not just an incidental effect of ambient bias contaminating this new machinery of extraction. It is written into its DNA. The World Computer is a passionate analysis of how the phase-shift of contemporary capitalism we are currently experiencing carries forward from its colonial past a coefficient of exploitation that intensifies apace with capital's exponentially increasing powers of abstraction. Beller's provocative genealogy of contemporary capitalism is an essential contribution to understanding the evolving economy as a formation of power, in symbiosis with systemic racism.” — Brian Massumi, author of 99 Theses on the Revaluation of Value: A Postcapitalist Manifesto


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jonathan Beller is Professor in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at the Pratt Institute and author of The Message is Murder: Substrates of Computational Capital and The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  xi
I. Computational Racial Capitalism
Introduction: The Social Difference Engine and the World Computer  3
1. The Computational Unconscious: Technology as a Racial Formation  63
II. The Computational Mode of Production
2. M-I-C-I'-M': The Programmable Image of Photo-Capital  101
3. M-I-M': Informatic Labor and Data-Visual Interruptions in Capital's "Concise Style"  139
III. Derivative Conditions
4. Advertisarial Relations and Aesthetics of Survival  175
5. An Engine and a Camera  206
6. Derivative Living and Subaltern Futures: Film as Derivative, Cryptocurrency as Film  222
Appendix 1. The Derivative Machine: Life Cut, Bundled and Sold—Notes on the Cinema  255
Appendix 2. The Derivative Image: Interview by Susana Nascimento Duarte  267
Notes  285
References  301
Index  315
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1116-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1013-5