The Neoliberal Politics of “Smart”:
Electricity Consumption, Household Monitoring, and the Enterprise Form
by Anthony M. Levenda, Dillon Mahmoudi, & Gerald Sussman
Portland State University
Portland State University PDXScholar
Urban Studies and Planning Faculty Publications
and Presentations Urban Studies and Planning
Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol 40 (4)
Excerpts from the full 23 page document. This is a rather difficult read so read carefully.
In this article, we wish to discuss the relationship between the expansion and deepening of corporate encroachment on the household and everyday life through the emerging energy “smart grid.”
Every home is equipped with the rudiments of electrical
infrastructure and commodities, ranging from the more modest forms of equipment, such as toasters and refrigerators, to the more extravagant, such as luxury hot tubs and full-scale entertainment complexes. but most people would not imagine that, apart from the bill they receive from their local electric utility, their every flick of an electrical switch integrates their cyberselves as an informational force of (re)production in the corporate capitalist accumulation process.
Technology developments have broad applications and implications, but the smart energy grid that is being implemented
across the United States and Canada, like the worldwide web, we argue, is being appropriated as part of a design to draw upon higher level data from dwellers (as surplus value) in the service of industrial profiteering and in the surveillance interests of industry
and the state.
The consumer’s use value of electricity consumption is thus being transformed into exchange value, as well as creating new forms of social monitoring and control by agencies of government, and of violations of constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment of the u.S. constitution and Section 8 of the Canadian charter of rights and Freedoms.
As recent exposés regarding National Security Agency (NSA) data collection practices reveal, the clandestine state invasion of private lives and personal information on a sweeping scale would hardly be unprecedented.
There are three closely related core and mutually constituting issues we wish to discuss in this article.
The first concerns the matter of deep surveillance of household life and what this suggests about the erosion of the right to privacy principle embedded in the Fourth Amendment and Section 8 of the Canadian charter of rights and Freedoms, as well as about the regulation of daily life by highly organized, technology assisted external commercial and state forces.
The second, which closely follows from and rationalizes the first, relates to the Foucauldian idea about the disciplining of citizens,
which we see as achieved through ideology, discourse, and materiality linked to electrical energy use within the home, as well as to notions of “efficiency” that persuade people to adapt their behavior as “rational economic actors.”
This subjectivity acquiesces to the rules and regimentation of the corporate enterprise, leads to self taylorization of time and motion in consonance with presumed personal and environmental savings, and in general induces conformity to the norms that make for good neoliberal corporate state citizens.
Third is the question of how consumers are subsumed in value creation, an investigation into whether energy consumers, as “prosumers,” are concurrently producers of wealth by way of submission of their identities and use data that are appropriated in the process of capital formation (within its production and circulation functions)—anything from space/time use of appliances, to the ways by which self-regulation is commodified.