Überwachungskapitalistische Biopolitik: Big Tech und die Regierung der Körper

Zeitschrift Für Politikwissenschaft (forthcoming)
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The article introduces the concept of "surveillance-capitalist biopolitics" to problematize the recent expansion of "data extractivism" in health care and health research. As we show, this trend has accelerated during the ongoing Covid pandemic and points to a normalization and institutionalization of self-tracking practices, which, drawing on the "quantified self", points to the emergence of a "quantified collective". Referring to Foucault and Zuboff, and by analyzing key examples of the leading "Big Tech" companies (e.g., Alphabet and Apple), we argue that contemporary forms of digital biopolitics are privatized, opaque, flexible, and not limited to the state. Instead, especially through the integration of wearable technologies, the biopolitical regulation of bodies is increasingly mediated by private tech companies. These companies rely on a questionable narrative of participation, responsibility, and care despite owning, and ultimately controlling, access to intimate health data and the proprietary algorithms mediating this data. The article shows that the proliferation of "surveillance-capitalist biopolitics" ultimately strengthens not only market power but also the epistemic and infrastructural power of the dataowning and gadget-producing firms. Finally, against an exclusively repressive and negative reading of biopolitics, and to effectively counter the forms of power emerging from surveillance-capitalist biopolitics, we propose four dimensions that are central to its democratizationnamely privacy/individual sovereignty, democratic deliberation, pluralism, and epistemic equality. DOI: 10.1007/s41358-021-00309-9

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Anna-Verena Nosthoff
Goethe University Frankfurt


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