by Rob Larson
If the stories they tell about themselves are to be believed, all of the tech giants--Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon--were built from the ground up through hard work, a few good ideas, and the entrepreneurial daring to seize an opportunity when it presented itself.
With searing wit and blistering commentary Bit Tyrants provides an urgent corrective to this froth of board room marketing copy that is so often passed off as analysis. For fans of corporate fairy-tales there are no shortage of official histories that celebrate the innovative genius of Steve Jobs, liberal commentators who fall over themselves to laude Bill Gates's selfless philanthropy, or politicians who will tell us to listen to Mark Zuckerberg for advice on how to protect our democracy from foreign influence.
In this highly unauthorized account of the Big Five's origins, Rob Larson sets the record straight, and in the process shreds every focus-grouped bromide about corporate benevolence he could get his hands on. Those readers unwilling to smile and nod as every day we become more dependent on our phones and apps to do our chores, our jobs, and our socializing can take heart as Larson provides us with maps to all the shallow graves, skeleton filled closets, and invective laced emails Big Tech left behind on its ascent to power. His withering analysis will help readers crack the code of the economic dynamics that allowed these companies to become near-monopolies very early on, and, with a little bit of luck, his calls for digital socialism might just inspire a viral movement for online revolution.
"Larson argues that what we need here is the mass strike: widespread strike action, on an international scale, for social good. The tech infrastructure and services which have become central to our lives need to be brought under democratic control, by their workers and their users. Larson recognizes that this will not be an easy fight, but there are immediate demands we can make which would be both beneficial in themselves and which would energize activists to fight for the more transformative changes we need." -- Counterfire
"Larson demonstrates, devastatingly, that the supposedly libertarian and benevolent owners of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook -- the five biggest corporations in the world by market value, he notes -- used predatory practices to solidify their positions, running roughshod over competitors and their own employees alike... Bit Tyrants is potentially as horrifying as any fiction." -- Winnipeg Free Press
"Highly informed, lively and readable, this is a badly needed study of the giant high tech corporations that increasingly dominate the means of work and social interaction, amass and scrutinize the details of our lives, seek to shape attitudes and behavior, and like the great virtual monopolies of the past both rely on state power and heavily influence it. Beyond exposing the nature of this awesome and threatening system, Larson goes on to outline how it can, and should, be brought under popular control. A most valuable contribution to understanding and guide to action." -- Noam Chomsky
About the Author:
Rob Larson is Professor of Economics at Tacoma Community College and author of Capitalism vs. Freedom and Bleakonomics. He writes for a number of venues including Current Affairs, Dollars & Sense and Jacobin.