The exploitative web: Misuses of Marx in critical social media studies



Publication Details

Reveley, J. (2013). The exploitative web: Misuses of Marx in critical social media studies. Science & Society, 77 (4), 512-535.


Scholars who argue that social media users are exploited in the classical Marxian sense are making a fundamental category error. A case in point is work by Christian Fuchs and Paul Rey, two leading proponents who press Marxian categories into service to depict social media as inherently exploitative. Hastily applying "exploitation" to social media usage, their catachrestical mistake has negative implications for value theory and for emancipatory politics. Following a neglected lead in Dallas Smythe's writings, Marxist analysis should instead begin with social media's capacity to influence the value of labor-power. When assessed from this starting point it is evident that any increase in exploitation, due to wage-earners' private use of social media, occurs only indirectly as a second-order effect. Moreover, social media's organization-enhancing potential can help labor shift the balance of class forces back in its favor, thereby limiting rises in the rate of exploitation.

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