Note — May 19, 2020

The Tech ‘Solutions’ for Coronavirus Take the Surveillance State to the Next Level

This piece by Evgeny Morozov was going to go in the section below but I had to included it here because there are just too many good quotes and his framing of neoliberalism, solutionists, public imaginations, and social democracy is just too good to pass up.

His expression of a “post-solutionist path” is also good to parallel with last week’s pieces questioning “ready-to-hand futures.” Though they don’t emerge from the same people and ideas, they are two examples of thinking through what’s needed, not jumping on existing habits and ideas. You could even add Tarnoff’s recommendation above, regarding the socialist tradition.

Neoliberalism shrinks public budgets; solutionism shrinks public imagination. The solutionist mandate is to convince the public that the only legitimate use of digital technologies is to disrupt and revolutionise everything but the central institution of modern life – the market. […]

But the solutionist responses to this disaster will only hasten the diminishment of our public imagination – and make it more difficult to imagine a world without the tech giants dominating our social and political infrastructure. […]

Our question should not be which ideology – social democracy or neoliberalism – can harness and tame the forces of competition better, but rather: what institutions do we need to harness the new forms of social coordination and innovation afforded by digital technologies? […]

While they can be used for non-market purposes, today’s digital platforms make a poor foundation for a political order open to actors other than consumers, start-ups and entrepreneurs. Without reclaiming digital platforms for a more vibrant democratic life, we will be condemned for decades to come to the unhappy choice between “progressive” and “punitive” solutionisms.