Value, Rent, and the Political Economy of Social Media
Jakob Rigi and Robert Prey
Fuchs (2010, 2012) argues that users of social media produce value and surplus value in the Marxian sense. Arvidsson & Colleoni (2012) critique this hypothesis claiming that Marx’s theory of value is irrelevant to the regime of value production on social media platforms in particular and in informational capitalism in general. They claim that the affective relations and financial speculations that generate value on social media are not dependent on labor time. This article critically engages Fuchs, and Arvidsson & Colleoni, by revisiting Marx’s theory of value. Contra Fuchs, we argue that audiences do not produce value and surplus value – not for social nor mass media. Contra Arvidsson & Colleoni, we argue that so-called affective relations (philia) do not produce value either. Instead we demonstrate that social media generate revenue from four primary sources – by leasing advertisement space to generate advertisement rent, by selling information, by selling services to advertisers, and by generating profits from fictitious capital and speculative windfalls. All four, we argue, can be adequately explained by Marx's theory of value.
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