Collectivity Under “Über-Capitalism”: The moral economy of the serial crowd

Authors: Mark Kear*, University of Arizona - Geography & Development
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Theory, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Finance, Crowd, Moral Economy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


From crowdsourcing to crowdfunding, the platform business model has rehabilitated the crowd for capital: the crowd is no longer a problem to be managed by elites, but an exploitable problem solver (Wexler, 2011) and source of rents. Surprisingly, scholarship on the capitalized crowd has given little consideration to the role of the crowd in protecting – rather than disrupting – economic norms and traditional moral assumptions about how markets should work. It would seem that at the moment crowds have been refigured and recast as “wise,” they have been “de-moralized” – rendered incapable of standing up for a moral economic order. In other words, few have considered how the rediscovery of the “wisdom of crowds” (Surowiecki 2005) has affected (if at all) the ways that collectivities mobilize to protect or produce moral economic orders. In this paper, I argue – bringing together insights from Thompson’s (1971) moral economy of the English crowd and Sartre’s notion of seriality – that a new moral economy of the “serial” crowd (Sartre 1976) has emerged in response to the market’s new algorithmic ways of seeing, classifying and extracting rents from individuals’ activities and data (Fourcade and Healy 2016). A moral economy of the serial crowd is one in which individual acts of algorithmic self-care (e.g. credit building and monitoring, social media profile curation, etc.) are imagined to “scale up,” and together constitute a collective act of “self-protection” from predatory economic actors.

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