The Commercial Web Trilogy

The third piece in my series about the commercial web went live today at the LA Review of Books website. This one focuses on the concept of hyper-meritocracy, especially as articulated in Tyler Cowen’s book Average Is Over. I see hyper-meritocracy as fundamentally political and even “ethical” in its origins, which stands contrary to Cowen’s more tech-focused view:

But this kind of distinction doesn’t really exist in a hyper-meritocratic worldview. People are valued for their economic use and nothing more, and no other claim is really acknowledged. Essentially it elevates the market economy from a tool into an ethical system, the same way it elevates the computer from a tool to a way of sorting out who is “worthless” and who is not. Far from ideologically neutral, this worldview is exactly what makes hyper-meritocracy possible.

Like I said above, this is the third part of a the series. The first one introduced the idea of the commercial web and looked at Astra Taylor’s (important) book The People’s Platform. The second looked at the idea of digital cosmopolitanism, especially in light of Ethan Zuckerman’s book Rewire. And finally, there’s the latest piece, which examines hyper-meritocracy. They can all be read separately (though I do think of them as a series, and I think you’ll get more about of them if you read them together, in order). I imagine I’ll write about the commercial web again, but these three feel of a piece to me, so I wanted to link them all in the same post.