Talk delivered at Clemson University, September 5, 2013
Cyberlibertarianism has rapidly become the dominant mode of political thought of our time. Especially in the US, but also around the world, the view that might be summed in the slogan “computerization will set you free” has taken remarkably firm hold, especially of young people who perceive some of the many structura l political problems our world faces. Yet when we examine the premises of cyberlibertarian thought, here including the work of writers who appear to range across the political spectrum–from Clay Shirky and Yochai Benkler on the “left” to Peter Thiel and Eric Raymond on the “right”–we find remarkable uniformity in the grounding principles of their belief system, especially in the definition of terms like freedom, democracy, and property. This uniform belief system maps much more closely than the rhetoric would suggest to what Philip Mirowski and other economic historians have carefully traced to origins in the Neoliberal Thought Collective (NTC)–that is, a far-right political vision that is not compatible with both left and even traditional conservative thought of many different stripes. The long-term practice of the the NTC reveals many points of convergence with cyberlibertarian thought, and highlights areas of profound divergence with regard to other forms of political thought, especially around the value of equality. Both the practice of Wikipedia and the discourse of and surrounding hacking reveal close alignments between digital utopianiasm and the political agendas of the extreme right.