Digital Platforms for Illicit Drugs and Information Capitalism. A New Dialectic

When: Monday, 5 July 2021, 18:00 - 19:00. Where: online.

Meropi Tzanetakis and Stefan Marx will present their paper at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics.



This paper’s purpose is to examine the embeddedness of cryptomarkets within information capitalism. Cryptomarkets are defined as digital platforms bringing together different actors for the exchange of illicit drugs, among other products and services. In addition, cryptomarkets operate on a hidden part of the internet, the darknet, in order to conceal the actors’ identities and complicate law enforcement activities. In this paper, we aim to extend these accounts and situate them in digital capitalism (Fuchs 2013, Staab 2019) by arguing that the dialectic of harm reduction practices and market efficiency outlined above have an origin in the political, social and economic regime of information capitalism. Depicted as a new economic order that claims human experiences as free raw material for hidden but legal commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sales, and an economic logic that subordinates the production of goods and services to a new architecture of behavioural modification, Zuboff (2015, 2019) coined the term surveillance capitalism. Surveillance capitalism analyses how the current state of productive resources is organized around realising excess value by exploiting information that people give voluntarily by using and improving online platforms. Based on digital ethnographic fieldwork taking place between 2015 and 2021, we argue that actors perform mostly illicit transactions on cryptomarkets in a similar vein as on aforementioned legal digital markets. Our contribution reflects on the juxtaposition of surveillance capitalism and the capitalist practices within the illicit drug trade via the darknet since the emergence of Silk Road, the first cryptomarket platform.

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2021 SASE Conference: After Covid? Critical Conjunctures and Contingent Pathways of Contemporary Capitalism

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