The internet brings middle class capitalist socialism
Wired magazine seems to think the internet heralds a new socialism. This silliness stems from the same hypocricy and self-delusion that has middle class kids sitting in a house someone else built wearing clothes someone else cast off and lusting after DVDs and cell phones, while pretending to plot the downfall of Western capitalism. The internet is perhaps the greatest creation of capitalism. It is only through the surpluses generated by its money engine and the freedom generated by its armies that twaddle such as this even gets written and read.
The internet arises out of technologies spawned by capitalist-funded learning instititions and the military-industrial complex. It runs today on a sensationally expensive backbone funded by capitalism. It exists only because there is money to be made off it. Nobody builds servers and bandwidth out of any collectivist social motivations.
Wired thinks that on the internet "masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common,... they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge". Wrong.
The internet has not created any new collectivist means of production. It has democratised and internationalised access to markets. it expedites access to knowledge, and the distribution and theft of intellectual property. But anything built on the internet is either built for good old-fashioned profit, or for fun.
Hobbyists contribute their spare time for their own enjoyment to create software or content in a social atmosphere. Spare time made possible by the capitalism. The few who do this professionally do so because either (a) they hope to sell their time or IP on the capitalist market or (b) they have sufficient accumulated wealth for them to chase their socialist ideals for a time until they crash into the wall of reality.
The "socialist" internet is a self-indulgent spoilt exercise in idealism existing parasitically on the bounty of capitalism just like teenage anarchist punks and onanistic university radicals.
[updated 19/9/2009: it seems to me that, with the repeated failure of socialist/marxist politics, social revolutionaries now turn to the internet as the New Hope for social transformation. It isn't, sorry guys.
The internet transforms how businesses communicate and what channels they have to the customer. It doesn't change their ethics, or how they think or how they conduct business.
The internet has small impact on economics. Capitalsm has survived and embraced it with glee.
The great unwashed masses still huddle in their homes gazing blankly at flickering light, which hasn't changed from fire to TV to Youtube]