"State-as-a-Platform" - Sovereignty and Capital in Smart Governance

by Dr. Jathan Sadowski

Date: Wednesday, Jul 6, 2022 | 09:00-10:00 CET

Abstract: I offer a critical analyse of the political economic dynamics still unfolding through different combinations of power, technology and capital in cities and states. Rather than simply spreading via one static model, the practices and purposes of smart governance continue to evolve in important ways. I outline three concurrent phases in this development over the last 15 years, each one based on technology companies seeking to claim further power and authority over public services: managerial oversight, functional operation, and sovereign ownership. I don’t use the term “sovereign” lightly. But rather as a way of provoking crucial questions about the shifting nature of state sovereignty, and the intensification of corporate sovereignty, in an era of smart governance. The model gaining influence now goes beyond the public-private partnerships that have become standard fare in the last half-century of neoliberal austerity and privatisation. It is, instead, explicitly about reconfiguring the public into the private, the state into a platform. It is a techno-political theory that seems take seriously the premise: "What if instead of a government we had Amazon Web Services?"

Speaker Biography: Jathan studies the political economy and social impacts of digital technologies. He spent a long while researching smart urbanism and is now working on a large project about insurance technology. He is also the author of Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World (2020, The MIT Press).