The Platform Conjuncture
Keywords:platforms, capitalism, monopoly, market , antimarket, Braudel
The paper engages the problematic of platform capitalism in the company of Fernand Braudel. Platform capitalism is accordingly located in the opaque zone of the so-called antimarket, “where the great predators roam,” with its characteristic conditions of monopolization, concentrated economic and political power, and cultures of systematic regulatory evasion. The Braudelian schema requires that platform capitalism is situated, both historically and geographically, in this case both as a distinctive conjunctural moment and as an epiphenomenon of variegated and globalizing processes of financialization and neoliberalization. The paper offers an antidote to the mainstream treatment of platforms, with its technological exuberance, its preoccupation with internally generated dynamics, and its exaggerated claims to novelty and indeed revolutionary significance. Thinking conjuncturally about platform capitalism qua Braudelian capitalism does not just counter these problems, it represents a constructive supplement to extant political-economy accounts. It accentuates and problematizes non-repeating historical continuities (against presumptions of a radical technological-organizational break). And it points to constitutive conditions of coexistence (against the imaginary of a separate, self-propelling, and distinct innovation economy). To pose the platform question along with Braudel is to begin with problematics of monopoly power and antimarket behavior, rather than with technological affordances, network capacities, or the market.
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