What is the Californian Ideology?

View of Silicon Valley, the global hub of social media and technological development.
View of Silicon Valley, the global hub of social media and technological development.

The Californian Ideology is the title of an essay that was penned by Andy Cameron and Richard Barbrook in 1995. The two media theorists were talking about the relationship between technologies in the US and its relation to the economy and freedom of a nation. The rising number of technology firms in Silicon Valley in the 90s, they argued, was somehow connected to American neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism refers to the renaissance of ideas from the 19th century related to a form of let-do economic freedom where the people have the most power in making decisions related to the economy. At the same time, the two writers argue that the linkage between technology and economic freedom will lead to a contradictory coming together of the left wing and right wing beliefs.


The essay was first published in 1995 when it appeared in the Mute Magazine. Another appearance was on an internet mailing list for the purposes of a debate with the final copy of the essay appearing in 1996 in Science and Culture. The corresponding critique of the essay has also been written and revised a number of times in different languages as well.


Several critiques were in agreement with the essay including David Hudson from the Rewired Magazine. Hudson argued that the writers’ argument that the world’s holders of power are directed by a single philosophical concept is flawed. Instead, Hudson argues that there are plenty of constructs or ideas at work that misguides these people.

There were positive responses from others such as the Salon’s Andrew Leonard who described the essay as a well-spoken, harsh, and a penetrating criticism of the people holding power. Leonard did not fail to take note of Louis Rosetto from the Wire who had a very bitter criticism, something Leonard described as vitriolic, towards the original essay. Another person from the Salon, Gary Kamiya, had a mixed reception towards the essay. While appreciating the validity of the arguments made in the essay, Kamiya attacked the idea from the authors that advancements in technology will translate to a rebirth of racism.

A documentary released in 2011 concluded that the ideology had failed to deliver on its assertions. In the documentary, it is argued that the Californian ideology promised freedom from most forms of political oppression. Essentially, the ideology promised that everyone would be masters of their own destinies. Instead, as the documentary noted, people have never felt more helpless as a result of technological advancements. An outcome that is the direct opposite of what was claimed.


In the 1990s, associates of the business class in information technology industry made a lot of vocal promotions for ideologies that basically merged beliefs from the New Left and New Right. They believed that advancements in technology and information sharing would revolutionize older power systems and replace them with communities joined by technology in a virtual manner. This belief has been the basis of most critiques as they argue that the Californian ideology has instead strengthened the hold of corporations over individuals.


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