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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Reviews

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power

Shoshana Zuboff

3.71 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Profile Books Ltd
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publication date: 31 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781781256848

"Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defense." -- Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, Shock Doctrine and No Logo, and Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
2 Feb 2019

"may prove to be the first definitive account of the economic – and thus social and political – condition of our age"

Combining in-depth technical understanding and a broad, humanistic scope, Zuboff has written what may prove to be the first definitive account of the economic – and thus social and political – condition of our age... For Zuboff, this dread force is not merely a higher expression of capitalism, but a perversion of it, and while some might regard that as special pleading, she is at pains to clarify where it differs from more equitable and mutually beneficial forms... she introduces a number of useful terms into the discussion which do much to move it forward.
 

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
13 Apr 2019

"Katrina Gulliver considers how we have acquiesced to losing our privacy"

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is long, and Zuboff’s blow-by-blow accounts of the key players ignoring, mocking and finally riding roughshod over even governmental efforts to stop them are consistently shocking. The punishments meted out for incursions often seem trivial, given the companies’ power. For Google, a $100,000 penalty for infringement of privacy is like an ordinary citizen being caught speeding and fined a penny. In the EU regulators have recently started to toughen up, however, spurred by consumer activism and non-profit groups such as Austria’s NOYB, and following the institution of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

3 stars out of 5
David Patrikarakos
1 Apr 2019

"an exceptional and necessary book"

While relentless intellect and perspicacity of analysis are Zuboff’s (considerable) strengths, the sheer depth of her passion, which drives the book, is what occasionally trips her up.... The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is an exceptional and necessary book about the information civilisation we have become. Will we come to terms with this? Zuboff is not fatalistic. As she points out, Western governments have a track record of curbing capitalism’s excesses. We reined in the robber barons once and we can do it again, she argues. Let us hope that she is right.

4 stars out of 5
John Gray
8 Feb 2019

"she has given us an illuminating critical perspective on the regime of surveillance under which we all now live"

The ultimate end of surveillance capitalism is a way of life in which people have surrendered their humanity without realising it.

Such is the prospect envisioned by Zuboff in this groundbreaking book. Zuboff is interdisciplinary in her approach, ranging freely across social science, philosophy and history. Following on from a seminal essay she published in 2014, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism shows how big data companies extract a “behavioural surplus” from the information they mine from their users. Aiming to apply Marx’s account of surplus value in a time when capital is accumulated through knowledge-based technology, she has given us an illuminating critical perspective on the regime of surveillance under which we all now live.

3 stars out of 5
Bryan Appleyard
20 Jan 2019

"the most thorough take down of Big Tech I have read"

This is an important book, the most thorough take down of Big Tech I have read. It is, however, too long and too eccentric. Descriptions of her personal journey do not add to Zuboff’s authority and nor does the broadening of her case to include the usual demon of neoliberalism and, for some reason, the riots in Britain in 2011. She should do a shorter, punchier version if she really wants to promote resistance and outrage among the ordinary punters because, as Orwell also said, “if there is hope it lies in the proles”.

3 stars out of 5
Hugo Rifkind
18 Jan 2019

"This polemic has powerful insights into the modern economy. Shame about the execrable prose"

A short, largely unreadable chapter about Cambridge Analytica lists a bunch of known facts and goes nowhere with them. Later chapters about the dire effects of social media on teenage mental wellbeing are not just bloodless, but trite. It’s almost as if she lost interest. I know I did.

That said, Zuboff does a good job of dragging the badge of “world’s biggest tech villain” off Facebook’s chest and planting it squarely on Google’s, where it seems to belong better. As a definitive analysis of the Third Modernity, though, I’m not sure it delivers. The first, by the way, was the Industrial Revolution. I think the second might have been Friends Reunited.

5 stars out of 5
Jacob Silverman
18 Jan 2019

"This is the rare book that we should trust to lead us down the long hard road of understanding."

A Harvard Business School professor emerita with decades of experience studying issues of labor and power in the digital economy, Zuboff in 2015 published a paper, “Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization,” which has since become an essential source for anyone looking to reckon seriously with what she described as a distinct, emerging economic logic. Now she has followed up that paper with a doorstop of a book, an intensively researched, engagingly written chronicle of surveillance capitalism’s origins and its deleterious prospects for our society... Light on prescriptivist notions, Zuboff does propose a “right to sanctuary,” based on universalist, if ever more threatened, humanitarian principles, like the right to asylum. But she’s after something bigger, providing a scaffolding of critical thinking from which to examine the great crises of the digital age. Through her we learn that our friends to the north were indeed correct: Facebook is the problem (along with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, et al.). This is the rare book that we should trust to lead us down the long hard road of understanding.