Jonathan Beller. The World Computer: Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021. 338p. Paperback, $28.95 (ISBN: 9781478011163).

Sam Popowich


At the heart of this complex, ambitious, and difficult book is an intriguing idea: that the logic of capitalism has been to turn the entire world into a computer. In one stroke, all the tendencies toward the quantification of everything (of the human sciences, of social media, of our relationships to our bodies, of human achievements) becomes part of a single process: the precise and never-ending computation of value. Every incremental quantity, in every aspect of human life, is tabulated within the circuits of this computer. And there’s more: because quantification and value—modeled on the idea of price—can only exist within a ratio of difference, of more to less, the “world computer” can describe not only the meaningless differences between, say, one Olympic athlete and another, but the more insidious differences implicated in racism and other structures of oppression.

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