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[liberationtech] Thomas Piketty, Karl Marx and the Internet

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at
Thu May 29 08:48:35 PDT 2014

Fuchs, Christian. 2014. Thomas Piketty’s Book “Capital in the 
Twenty-First Century”, Karl Marx and the Political Economy of the 
Internet. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique 12 (1): 413-430.

Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has resulted 
in a sustained political and academic debate about capitalism in the 
21st century. This article discusses the relevance of the book in the 
context of Karl Marx’s works and the political economy of the Internet. 
It identifies 3 common reactions to Piketty’s book: 1) dignification; 2) 
denigration of the work’s integrity; 3) the denial of any parallel to 
Marx. I argue that all three reactions do not help the task of creating 
a New Left that is urgently needed in the situation of sustained 
capitalist crisis. Marxists will certainly view Piketty’s analysis of 
capitalism and political suggestions critically. I argue that they 
should however not dismiss them, but like Marx and Engels aim to 
radicalise reform suggestions. In relation to the Internet, this paper 
discusses especially how insights from Piketty’s book can inform the 
discussion of tax avoidance by transnational Internet companies such as 
Google, Facebook and Amazon. For establishing an alternative, 
non-commercial, non-capitalist Internet one can draw insights about 
institutional reforms and progressive capital taxation from Piketty that 
can be radicalised in order to ground radical-reformist Internet politics.

“The daily struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the condition 
of the workers within the framework of the existing social order, and 
for democratic institutions, offers to the social democracy the only 
means of engaging in the proletarian class war and working in the 
direction of the final goal-the conquest of political power and the 
suppression of wage labor. Between social reforms and revolution there 
exists for the social democracy an indissoluble tie. The struggle for 
reforms is its means; the social revolution, its aim” (Rosa Luxemburg 
1899, 41).

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