Privacy, Autonomy, and the Dissolution of Markets

Knight First Amendment Institute Data & Democracy Essay Series, 2022

40 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2022

See all articles by Kiel Brennan-Marquez

Kiel Brennan-Marquez

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Daniel Susser

Penn State University

Date Written: August 11, 2022


Throughout the 20th century, market capitalism was defended on parallel grounds. First, it promotes freedom by enabling individuals to exploit their own property and labor-power; second, it facilitates an efficient allocation and use of resources. Recently, however, both defenses have begun to unravel—as capitalism has moved into its “platform” phase. Today, the pursuit of allocative efficiency, bolstered by pervasive data surveillance, often undermines individual freedom rather than promoting it. And more fundamentally, the very idea that markets are necessary to achieve allocative efficiency has come under strain. Even supposing, for argument’s sake, that the claim was true in the early 20th century when von Mises and Hayek pioneered it, advances in computing have rekindled the old “socialist calculation” debate. And this time around, markets—as information technology—are unlikely to have the upper hand.

All of this, we argue, raises an important set of governance questions regarding the political economy of the future. We focus on two: How much should our economic system prioritize freedom, and to what extent should it rely on markets? The arc of platform capitalism bends, increasingly, toward a system that neither prioritizes freedom nor relies on markets. And the dominant critical response, exemplified by Shoshana Zuboff’s work, has been to call for a restoration of market capitalism. Longer term, however, we believe it would be more productive to think about how “postmarket” economic arrangements might promote freedom—or better yet, autonomy—even more effectively than markets, and to determine the practical steps necessary to realize that possibility.

Keywords: privacy, autonomy, markets, political economy, capitalism, surveillance capitalism, platform capitalism, digital socialism, digital feudalism

Suggested Citation

Brennan-Marquez, Kiel and Susser, Daniel, Privacy, Autonomy, and the Dissolution of Markets (August 11, 2022). Knight First Amendment Institute Data & Democracy Essay Series, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Kiel Brennan-Marquez

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

Daniel Susser (Contact Author)

Penn State University ( email )

E325 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics