The Californian Ideology

” The Californian Ideology ” is a 1995 essay by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster . Barbrook describes it as a “critique of dotcom neoliberalism”. [1] In the essay, Barbrook and Cameron argue that the rise of networking technologies in Silicon Valley in the 1990s was linked to American neoliberalism and a paradoxical hybridization of beliefs from the political left in the form of hopeful military determinism .

The original essay was published in Mute magazine [2] in 1995 and later appeared on the NetTM Internet mailing list for debate. A final version was published in Science as Culture in 1996. The critique has been revised in several different versions and languages. [1]

Andrew Leonard of Salon called Barbrook & Cameron’s work “one of the most penetrating reviews of neo-conservative digital hypesterism yet published.” [3] Louis Rossetto , ed. Editor and publisher of Wired magazine, called “Retentional Analyst attachment to failed 19th century social and economic analysis”.


“This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley … the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. “

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron [4]

During the 1990s, members of the entrepreneurial class in the information technology industry in Silicon Valley have promoted an ideology that combines the ideas of Marshall McLuhan with elements of radical individualism , libertarianism , and neoliberal economics, using publications like Wired magazine to promulgate their ideas. This ideology mixed New Left and New Right beliefs based on their counter interest in anti-statism , the counterculture of the 1960s , and techno-utopianism. [5]

Proponents Believed That in a post-industrial , post-capitalist , knowledge-based economy , the exploitation of information and knowledge Would drive growth and wealth while diminishing the establishment older power structures of the state in favor of Individuals connected in virtual communities . [6]

Critics contend that the Californian Ideology has strengthened the power of corporations and the social stratification, and remains distinctly Americentric . Barbrook argues that members of the digerati who adhere to the Californian Ideology, embrace a form of reactionary modernism . According to Barbrook, “American neo-liberalism seems to have successfully achieved the contradictory goals of reactionary modernism: economic progress and social immobility.But the long-term goal of liberating everyone will never be reached, the short-term rule of the digerati can last forever. ” [7]


According to Fred Turner , sociologist Thomas Streeter of the University of Vermont notes that the Californian Ideology appeared as part of a pattern of Romantic Individualism with Stewart Brand as a key influence. [8] Adam Curtisconnects the origins of the Californian Ideology to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand . [9]


While in general agreement with Barbrook and Cameron’s central thesis, the David Hudson of Rewired takes issue with their portrayal of Wired magazine’s position as representative of every viewpoint in the industry. “What Barbrook is saying between the lines is that the people with their hands on the reins of power in all of the world … are guided by an utterly skewed philosophical construct.” Hudson maintains that there is not one, but a multitude of different ideologies at work. [10]

Andrew Leonard of Salon calls the essay “a lucid lambasting of right-wing libertarian digerati dominance of the Internet” and “one of the most penetrating critics of neo-conservative digital hypestancy yet published.” Leonard also notes the “vitriolic” response from Louis Rossetto , ed. Editor and publisher of Wired magazine. [3]

Rossetto issued a rebuttal to the original version published in Mute magazine, calling it “a totally out-of-lunch excursion”, “a descent into the kind of completely stupid comments on race in Europe”. “utterly laughable Marxist / Fabian kneejerk that there is such a thing as the news-haves and have-nots”, an “analist retentive attachment to failed 19th century social and economic analysis” and finally, “a profound ignorance of economics”. [11]

Gary Kamiya, also of Salon , recognized the validity of the hand in the essay, but like Rossetto, Kamiya attacked Barbrook & Cameron’s “ludicrous academic-Marxist claim that high-tech libertarianism somehow represents a recrudescence of racism.” [12]

Architecture historian Kazys Varnelis of Columbia University found that in spite of the privatization advocated by the Californian Ideology, the economic growth of Silicon Valley and California were “made possible only for the exploitation of the immigrant … and exploitation of non-citizen poor: a model for future administrations. ” [13]

In the 2011 documentary, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace , Curtis concludes that the Californian Ideology failed to live up to its claims:

The original promise of the Californian Ideology, was that the computers would liberate us from the old forms of political control, and we would become Randian heroes , in control of our own destiny. Instead, today, we feel the opposite-that we are helpless components in a global system-a system that is controlled by a rigid logic that we are powerless to challenge or to change. [9]

See also

  • Carmen Hermosillo
  • Dot-com company
  • Jeffersonian democracy
  • Libertarian transhumanism
  • Technocracy
  • Technocapitalism
  • Capitalism monitoring
  • corporatocracy


  1. ^ Jump up to:b Barbrook 2007, Imaginary Futures: Other Works .
  2. Jump up^ The Californian Ideology, Barbrook, Cameron, 1995-09, Mute Vol 1 # 3 CODE,ISSN 1356-7748, Mute, London,
  3. ^ Jump up to:b Leonard, Andrew (1999-09-10) The Cybercommunist Manifesto , , retrieved 2012-11-01
  4. Jump up^ Barbrook & Cameron,Revised Version SaC; Borsook 2000, p. 173
  5. Jump up^ Ouellet 2010; May 2002
  6. Jump up^ May 2002
  7. Jump up^ Barbrook 1999
  8. Jump up^ Turner 2006, p. 285
  9. ^ Jump up to:b Curtis 2011
  10. Jump up^ Hudson 1996
  11. Jump up^ Rossetto 1996
  12. Jump up^ Kamiya 1997
  13. Jump up^ Varnelis 2009


  • Barbrook, Richard. Andy Cameron. (1996) [1995] ” The Californian Ideology “. Science as Culture 6.1 (1996): 44-72.
  • Barbrook, Richard. Andy Cameron (1995) Basic Banalities .
  • Barbrook, Richard. (May 15, 1996). ” Global Algorithm 1.5: Hypermedia Freedom “. Ctheory . 19 (1-2).
  • Barbrook, Richard . (2000) [1999]. ” Cyber-Communism: How The Americans Are Superseding Capitalism In Cyberspace “. Science as Culture . 9 (1), 5-40.
  • Barbrook, Richard (2006). The Class of the New (paperback ed.). London: OpenMute. ISBN  0-9550664-7-6 . .
  • Borsook, Paulina . (2000). Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech . PublicAffairs. ISBN  1-891620-78-9 .
  • Curtis, Adam (2011). “Love and Power”. All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace . BBC.
  • Hudson, David. (June 24, 1996). ” The Other Californians “. Rewired: Journal of a Strained Net .
  • Kamiya, Gary. (January 20, 1997). ” Smashing the state: The strange rise of libertarianism “. .
  • Leonard, Andrew. (September 10, 1999). ” The Cybercommunist Manifesto “. .
  • May, Christopher. (2002). The Information Society: A Skeptical View . Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN  0745626858 .
  • Ouellet, Maxime. (2010). “Cybernetic capitalism and the global information society: From the global panopticon to a ‘brand’ new world. In Jacqueline Best and Matthew Paterson, Cultural Political Economy . 10 . Taylor & Francis. ISBN  0-415-48932-6 .
  • Rossetto, Louis. (1996). ” 19th Century Nostrums Are Not Solutions to 21st Century Problems “. Mute . 1 (4).
  • Streeter, Thomas. (1999). ‘That Deep Romantic Chasm’: Libertarianism, Neoliberalism, and the Computer Culture . In Andrew Calabrese and Jean-Claude Burgelman, eds., Communication, Citizenship, and Social Policy: Re-Thinking the Limits of the Welfare State . Rowman & Littlefield, 49-64.
  • Turner, Fred. (2006). From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism . University Of Chicago Press. ISBN  0-226-81741-5 .
  • Varnelis, Kazys. (2009). ” Complexity and Contradiction in Infrastructure “. Ph.D. Lecture Series. Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *