Chokepoint Capitalism

The Rise of Chokepoint Capitalism and How Workers Can Defeat It

304 pages

English language

Published Sept. 20, 2022

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4 stars (6 reviews)

A call to action for the creative class and labor movement to rally against the power of Big Tech and Big Media

Corporate concentration has breached the stratosphere, as have corporate profits. An ever-expanding constellation of industries are now monopolies (where sellers have excessive power over buyers) or monopsonies (where buyers hold the whip hand over sellers)—or both.

In Chokepoint Capitalism, scholar Rebecca Giblin and writer and activist Cory Doctorow argue we’re in a new era of “chokepoint capitalism,” with exploitative businesses creating insurmountable barriers to competition that enable them to capture value that should rightfully go to others. All workers are weakened by this, but the problem is especially well-illustrated by the plight of creative workers. From Amazon’s use of digital rights management and bundling to radically change the economics of book publishing, to Google and Facebook’s siphoning away of ad revenues from news media, and the Big Three …

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Naming the problem

No rating

Plenty of good anecdotes on the way companies use their position as dominent buyers or sellers to manipulate markets, pocket unfair shares of wealth, and generally make life worse for everyone who isn't their execs and shareholders. The collective solutions proposed all seem like reasonable starting points, too—but while I agree with their point that systemic problems require systemic solutions, I don't feel like I left the book with a starting point of how to work towards that change.

Maybe just naming the problem and talking about it is a sound enough starting point. Chokepoint Capitalism is a useful term, evocative and intuitive to understand, but also expansive enough to capture a whole world of corporate corruption. If it bleeds its way into more general discourse, that can only be a good thing.

An anti-monopoly / monopsony manifesto

4 stars

Doctorow is known for his activism in favor of the open web and privacy rights. In this book, with Rebecca Giblin, they describe how the corporate monopolies and monopsonies are strangling the culture industry and especially creators and makers upon whose content and creativity these corporations and platforms rely. And so, we learn a lot about how Amazon, Spotify, Live Nation, and Youtube, among others, have created bottlenecks (or chokepoints, hence the title) between creators and audiences, to the detriment of both. This accomplished through network effects, vertical and horizontal integration, blocking new entrants, regulatory capture, and manipulation of copyright laws, as well as non-compete clauses which lock in workers (as time of writing, FTC chair Lina Khan is proposing to eliminate those, which would be great). The first part of the book describes these mechanisms in clear detail. The second part of the book focuses on potential solutions to …

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4 stars