Technocapitalism: Corporatism as Business Governance of Society


Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism: Critical Extracts and Notes

Corporatism is the power of business corporations over society. The corporate colonization of our social relations, of our identity as humans, and of life itself is an ongoing enterprise: it colonizes human society, nature, and the planet, corporatism degrades us, turning our most precious human qualities into commodities. This degradation of human values is not grounded in technology, in and of itself. It is grounded in the character of a new kind of corporatism and its authoritarian control over technology. It is a new kind of corporatism that is more clever, rapacious, and invasive than any previous form and that is imperial in its quest for power and profit as it tries to control any and all aspects of the public domain.1

Technocapitalism is defined as a new form of capitalism that is heavily grounded on corporate power and its exploitation of technological creativity. Creativity, an intangible human quality, is the most precious resource of this new incarnation of capitalism. Corporate rate power and profit inevitably depend on the commodification of creativity through research regimes that must generate new inventions and innovations. These regimes and the corporate apparatus in which they are embedded are to technocapitalism what the factory system and its production regimes were to industrial capitalism. The tangible resources of industrial capitalism, in the form of raw materials, production hardware, capital, and physical labor routines are thus replaced by intangibles, research hardware, experimental designs, and talented individuals with creative aptitudes. The generation of technology in this new era of capitalism is therefore a social phenomenon that relies as much on technical functionality as on the co-optation of cultural attributes.

The technological rationality of technocapitalism therefore combines technique (the rational character of technology) with social domination (the ideological character of corporatism). Such control is usually codified in the form of rules and conventions that govern how research is done and what it should look for.

Experimentalism is the driving force of technocapitalism. It underpins pins the ethos of this new era with its compulsions, exploitive schemes, and diverse pathologies. Experimentalism is defined here as technological and scientific inquiry whose overarching objective is commercial. It is therefore experimentation for the sake of profit and power above all ends, rather than experimentation for its own sake or for the sake of attaining new knowledge as an end in itself.

Technologies of Technocapitalism:

Most every area of biotechnology, including proteomics, genomics, biopharmaceuticals, and biomedicine, the nascent field of nanotechnology and all its innumerable able future medical and mechanical applications, molecular computing, bioinformatics, and the area of biorobotics are but a few examples of the fields that will represent this reincarnation of capitalism.

The socialization of experimentalism means that society as a whole becomes the laboratory of technocapitalism. This is a laboratory that is certainly quite different from the traditional labs of experimental science, not only physically but also in terms of scope, governance, and reach. And, it is a laboratory in which all of society is forcibly engaged, through the commercial compulsion of the new order. All of society, in essence, becomes the guinea pig of corporate experimentalism. Social mediation here refers to the intervention of society through, for example, the kind of relations that stimulate the generation of new knowledge and creativity. The term also refers to the governance of such relations, which affects the deployment of research creativity whenever it is applied as a resource of technocapitalism. The networks of experimentalism are highly focused on research and on the communication of new knowledge obtained through research. Creativity is a fundamental resource for the latter. The social mediation of these networks is a major force in stimulating creativity to the extent that they regenerate imaginations, curiosity, and the motivation to search, tinker, or test.

Success in extracting value-rather than finding truth-becomes the prime objective of experimentalism. Extracting value from research search creativity thus becomes the new “truth.” Science at the service of corporate experimentalism does not involve the simple and unfettered search for truth for its own sake. If it occurs at all, the search for truth is subordinated to a higher priority: the attainment of commercial value, the higher the better, over all other possibilities. Corporations that do not produce products but rather patent knowledge: Their only interest is in establishing intellectual (in this case technological)  property claims, and their revenues are derived from licensing other companies who may put the patented genetic information to use in some product or service.

Corporatism is primarily in charge of the commodification of creativity and cannot hope to reproduce it on its own because of the fundamentally social character of this resource. Only society can reproduce creativity effectively. This split between commodification (a corporate function) and reproduction (a social function) is a distinctive feature of the new era.

The socialization and manufacture of reality by corporatism to suit its ongoing agendas means that experimentalism increasingly sets the goals for entire societies. The incipient convergence between genetic engineering, biopharmacology, and biomedicine cine offers the frightening possibility of adjusting individual genetic makeups to suit corporate needs, not only in the manipulation of mass consumption habits but also in producing individuals who are pliant to corporate power and to its managerial priorities. “Medications” that engineer personalities and attitudes to suit corporate priorities are likely to become widespread with the expansion of the biopharmaceutical industry.

Realignment educational infrastructure directly related to technology and science, such as instructional laboratories and classrooms, are becoming a part of this new corporatism. Funding by corporations and government sponsored institutions will realign their agendas to meet the demands of the corporatism, while at the same time phasing our spurious and alternative educational programs deemed non-compliant to the new corporate culture. One is seeing this as many of the older liberal arts programs are slowly being phased out and replaced with more technological and scientific instructional initiatives. 

Educational institutions that do not comply will find their funding and regulatory incentives slowly disappear. This kind of public subsidy for corporatism has arguably been more important than all the myriad fiscal “incentives” often cited in the media, such as tax breaks, export subsidies, and the often-corrupt loosening of regulatory controls. This is especially so because the effects of infrastructural accumulation are long-term, lasting over several generations, and tend to compound over time.

In the new era profit will drive creativity for all involved in this new social experimentalism. Secondly the boundaries between technology and the sciences will be systematically erased as corporatism sets the agenda for profitable research. Third is the extraction of value from creativity itself. Systematization turns experimentalism into more of a social artifact as it improves its capacity to extract value. For value to be extracted, creativity must be exploited. As creativity is an intangible and inherently social quality, by facilitating its exploitation, systematization makes experimentalism more dependent on social relations.

As Suarez-Villas says it the advance of experimentalism threatens to turn society into the laboratory of technocapitalism. No aspect of human existence may be out of reach of this phenomenon if it remains unchallenged, especially as the link between experimentalism and corporate power grows stronger and tries to collapse most any obstacle to its reach. We have only just begun to witness the start of this new stage of capitalism, which is likely to be more oppressive and farther reaching than prior versions. The twenty-first century will tell the story of this trajectory and of the forces that manage to challenge its advance.

1. Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism (Kindle Locations 51-56). Kindle Edition.

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