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Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy

Elder-Vass, D. (2016). Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy. Cambridge University Press.

Our economy is neither overwhelmingly capitalist, as Marxist political economists argue, nor overwhelmingly a market economy, as mainstream economists assume. Both approaches ignore vast swathes of the economy, including the gift, collaborative and hybrid forms that coexist with more conventional capitalism in the new digital economy. Drawing on economic sociology, anthropology of the gift and heterodox economics, this book proposes a groundbreaking framework for analysing diverse economic systems: a political economy of practices. The framework is used to analyse Apple, Wikipedia, Google, YouTube and Facebook, showing how different complexes of appropriative practices bring about radically different economic outcomes. Innovative and topical, Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy focusses on an area of rapid social change while developing a theoretically and politically radical framework that will be of continuing long-term relevance. It will appeal to students, activists and academics in the social sciences.

My TEDx talk ‘How to think differently about the economy’ discusses the broader implications of the book’s argument in 17 minutes. Recorded at Loughborough University in 2016.

The introductory chapter can be downloaded as a PDF, and shorter extracts from chapter 1, chapter 5, and chapter 10 are available on my blog. These posts reflect further on the book’s themes: