Critical Theory Foundations of Digital Capitalism: A Critical Political Economy Perspective

Keywords: digital capitalism, critical theory, Critique of Political Economy


The overall task of this paper is to outline some foundations of a critical theory of digital capitalism. The approach of the Critique of Political Economy is taken as the starting point for theorising (digital) capitalism.

First, the paper discusses selected classical definitions of capitalism. Theories of digital capitalism must build on definitions and theories of capitalism. If capitalism is not only an economic order but a societal formation, the analysis of capitalism is the analysis of economic exploitation and non-economic domination phenomena and their interaction. Theories of digital capitalism should also address the question of how class, racism, and patriarchy are related in the context of digitalisation.

Second, the author introduces a notion of digital capitalism that is based on Marx’s approach of the Critique of Political Economy.

Third, the paper engages with one influential contemporary approach to theorising capitalism, Nancy Fraser’s Cannibal Capitalism. The author discusses what we can learn from Fraser’s approach to theorising digital capitalism.

Fourth, the author discusses existing understandings of digital capitalism that can be found in the academic literature. These definitions are compared to the understanding advanced in this article.

Fifth, the paper discusses the relationship of the notion of digital capitalism from a Critical Political Economy perspective in comparison to the notions of the network society/informational capitalism (Manuel Castells), surveillance capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff), and platform capitalism (Nick Srnicek).

Sixth, the paper reflects on the relationship between digital capitalism and violence as we live in a (digital) age where a new World War is all but uncertain.

Finally, some conclusions are drawn.

Author Biography

Christian Fuchs, Paderborn University, Department of Media Studies: Media Systems and Media Organisation

Christian Fuchs is Chair Professor of Media Systems and Media Organisation. He is co-editor of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. His research interests are: critical theory, social theory, political economy of media and communication, critical digital media studies.
URL:, Twitter @fuchschristian

Critical Perspectives on Digital Capitalism 1: Theorising Digital Capitalism