Where do social networking sites get their so-called value? Why does LinkedIn seem to be “worth” a billion dollars, as the New York Times reports today? Simple. Here’s a quote from Marx:
Capital is not the command over labour, as Adam Smith thought. It is essentially the command over unpaid labour. All surplus value, whatever particular form (profit, interest or rent) it may subsequently crystallize into, is in substance the materialization of unpaid labour-time. The secret of the self-valorization of capital resolves itself into the fact that it has at its disposal a definite quantity of unpaid labour of other people.
At 23 million members, LinkedIn, much like its MySpace and Facebook ilk, has an army of free labor, the original source of surplus value for capital, giving labor time away, gratis. (It’s not lost on javier.est that this particular form of blogging is also labor uploaded to Six Apart, but let’s keep that a separate matter for now and focus on “social networking.”) It’s no surprise, then, that the Times has also launched into social networking. Nor is it a surprise that Conde Nast owns Reddit, and as that link tells us, Reddit is now “open source”. For a minute there, it seemed like “open source” was going to be a people’s revolution, a reappropriation of the “means of production” of software itself and of our digital social selves. But to think that Silicon Valley is going to be the site of a digital Paris Commune? It would be like a successful Llano del Rio! (Image: Ruins of Llano del Rio Hotel, courtesy of LA County Public Library)