Shoshana Zuboff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Shoshana Zuboff
Shoshana Zuboff at Alexander von Humboldt Institut.jpg
Born1951 (age 69–70)
TitleCharles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita, Harvard Business School
Academic background
EducationHarvard University, University of Chicago
Thesis"The Ego at Work" (1980)
Doctoral advisorProfessor Herbert Kelman
Academic work
DisciplineSocial Psychology
Sub-disciplineHistory of work, history of capitalism, adult development, social psychology of technology.
InstitutionsHarvard Business School

Shoshana Zuboff (born 1951)[1] is an American author, Harvard professor, social psychologist, philosopher, and scholar.

She is the author of the books In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power and The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, co-authored with James Maxmin. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, integrates her lifelong themes: the digital revolution, the evolution of capitalism, the historical emergence of psychological individuality, and the conditions for human development.[2]

Zuboff's work is the source of many original concepts including 'surveillance capitalism', 'instrumentarian power', 'the division of learning in society', 'economies of action', 'the means of behavior modification', 'information civilization', 'computer-mediated work', the 'automate/informate' dialectic, 'abstraction of work', and 'individualization of consumption'.


Zuboff received her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University.[3]


Zuboff joined the Harvard Business School in 1981 where she became the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration and one of the first tenured women on the Harvard Business School faculty. In 2014 and 2015 she was a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School.[3]

Surveillance capitalism[edit]

Zuboff's new work explores a novel market form and a specific logic of capitalist accumulation that she named "surveillance capitalism". She first presented her concept in a 2014 essay, "A Digital Declaration", published in German and English in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.[4] Her followup 2015 scholarly article in the Journal of Information Technology titled "Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization"[5] received the International Conference on Information Systems Scholars' 2016 Best Paper Award.[6]

Surveillance capitalism and its consequences for twenty-first century society are most fully theorized in her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Zuboff's scholarship on surveillance capitalism as a "rogue mutation of capitalism" has become a primary framework for understanding big data and the larger field of commercial surveillance that she describes as a "surveillance-based economic order". She argues that neither privacy nor antitrust laws provide adequate protection from the unprecedented practices of surveillance capitalism. Zuboff describes surveillance capitalism as an economic and social logic. Her book originates the concept of 'instrumentarian power', in contrast to totalitarian power. Instrumentarian power is a consequence of surveillance capitalist operations which threaten individual autonomy and democracy.

Many issues that plague contemporary society including the assault on privacy and the so-called 'privacy paradox', behavioral targeting, fake news, ubiquitous tracking, legislative and regulatory failure, algorithmic governance, social media addiction, abrogation of human rights, democratic destabilization, and more are reinterpreted and explained through the lens of surveillance capitalism's economic and social imperatives.

Earlier work[edit]

In the Age of the Smart Machine[edit]

Zuboff's 1988 book, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, is a study of information technology in the workplace.[7][8][9][10]

Major concepts introduced in this book relate to knowledge, authority, and power in the information workplace. These include the duality of information technology as an informating and an automating technology; the abstraction of work associated with information technology and its related intellectual skill demands; computer-mediated work; the "information panopticon"; information technology as a challenge to managerial authority and command/control; the social construction of technology; the shift from a division of labor to a division of learning; and the inherently collaborative patterns of information work, among others.

The Support Economy[edit]

The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (2002), co-authored with James Maxmin, is the product of multi-disciplinary research integrating history, sociology, management and economics. It argues that the new structure of demand associated with the 'individuation of consumption' had produced widespread institutional failures in every domain, including a growing divide between the individuals and the commercial organizations upon which they depend.

Written before the introduction of the iPhone or the widespread penetration of the Internet, Zuboff and Maxmin argue that wealth creation in an individualized society would require leveraging new digital capabilities to enable a 'distributed capitalism'. This would entail a shift away from a primary focus on economies of scale, asset intensification, concentration, central control, and anonymous transactions in 'organization-space' towards support-oriented relationships in 'individual-space' with products and services configured and distributed to meet individualized wants and needs.[11]

Other work[edit]


In 1993, Zuboff founded the executive education program “Odyssey: School for the Second Half of Life” at the Harvard Business School. The program addressed the issues of transformation and career renewal at midlife. During twelve years of her teaching and leadership, Odyssey became known as the premier program of its kind in the world.[12][13]

Non-academic work[edit]

In addition to her academic work, Zuboff brought her ideas to many commercial and public/private ventures through her public speaking as well as her direct involvement in key projects, particularly in social housing, health care, education, and elder care.

She also became a business columnist, developing and disseminating new concepts from The Support Economy. From 2003 to 2005, Zuboff shared her ideas in her widely read monthly column “Evolving”, in the magazine Fast Company.[14] From 2007 through 2009 she was a featured columnist for Business Week.[15]

From 2013 to 2016, Zuboff was a frequent contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, where essays drawn from her emerging work on surveillance capitalism were published in German and English.[16][17][18] In 2019 Zuboff further developed her critique of the social, political and economic impacts of digital technologies in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.[19]

On 25 September 2020, Zuboff was named as one of the 25 members of the "Real Facebook Oversight Board", an independent monitoring group over Facebook.[20]



  1. ^
  2. ^ Kavenna, Joanna (2019-10-04). "Shoshana Zuboff: 'Surveillance capitalism is an assault on human autonomy'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  3. ^ a b "About | Shoshana Zuboff". Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  4. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana (September 15, 2014). "A Digital Declaration". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Archived from the original on 2014-12-21. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  5. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana (2015-04-04). "Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization". Journal of Information Technology. Rochester, NY. 30: 75–89. doi:10.1057/jit.2015.5. SSRN 2594754.
  6. ^ "AIS Awards Best and Brightest at ICIS 2016 - Association for Information Systems (AIS)". Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  7. ^ Avgerou, Chrisanthi, Claudio Ciborra, and Frank Land. “Introduction.” The Social Study of Information and Communication Technology: Innovation, Actors and Contexts. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
  8. ^ Burton-Jones, Andrew. "What Have We Learned From the Smart Machine?" Working Paper. University of Queensland. June 13, 2012.
  9. ^ Timonene, Hanna and Kaija-Stina Paloheimo (2008), “The Emergence and Diffusion of the Concept of Knowledge Work”, The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 177-190.
  10. ^ Kallinikos, Jannis. “Farewell to Constructivism: Technology and Context-Embedded Action”. in Avgerou, Chrisanthi, Claudio Ciborra, and Frank Land. The Social Study of Information and Communication Technology: Innovation, Actors and Contexts. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
  11. ^ "Where We Go From Here". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.
  12. ^ "Fast Company Magazine Issue 26 JulyAugust 1999 - Business + Innovation". Archived from the original on 2010-07-16.
  13. ^ "The New New Adulthood". 1 August 2004.
  14. ^ "Fast Company - Business + Innovation". Archived from the original on 2013-01-16.
  15. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana. "Terms of Service Violation". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  16. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana (30 April 2014). "Response to Mathias Döpfner: Dark Google" – via FAZ.NET.
  17. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana. "The Sharing Economy: Disruption's Tragic Flaw". FAZ.NET (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  18. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana. "Google as a Fortune Teller: The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism". FAZ.NET (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  19. ^ Zuboff, Shoshana (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (1st ed.). PublicAffairs. p. 704. ISBN 978-1610395694. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  20. ^

External links[edit]