The Neoliberal Politics of “Smart”

Electricity Consumption, Household Monitoring, and the Enterprise Form

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Levenda, Anthony M., Dillon Mahmoudi, and Gerald Sussman. “The Neoliberal Politics of ‘Smart’: Electricity Consumption, Data Analytics, and Ubiquitous Financialization.” Canadian Journal of Communication 40 (4) (November): 615-636. doi:10.22230/cjc.2015v40n4a2928


This article investigates how digital technologies in the energy sector are enabling increased value extraction in the cycle of capital accumulation through surveillant processes of everyday energy consumption. We offer critical theory (Gramsci, Foucault) and critical political economy (Marx) as a guide for critical understanding of value creation in ICT through quotidian processes and practices of social reproduction. In this regard, the concept of the “prosumer” is extended beyond notions of voluntary participation in Web 2.0 to the political economy of energy use. Within this broad framework we investigate national and local level “smart grid” campaigns and projects. The “smartening” of the energy grid, we find, is both an ideological construct and a technological rationalization for facilitating capital accumulation through data collection, analysis, segmentation of consumers, and variable electricity pricing schemes to standardize social practices within and outside the home. We look at BC Hydro as one illustration of where such practices are being instituted.

Note: Feature image by Loudmouth Printhouse an Ottawa based, artist run, printing cooperative. The image is the cover image for the print edition of the Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 40, No 4 and is used here with permission.