Monday, October 28, 2019

Behavioral Capitalism - A New Form of Domination?

Behavioral Capitalism - A New Form of Domination?
Interview with Andreas Herteux, the founder of the Erich von Werner Society on the functioning and increasing influence of Behavioral Capitalism, which he researched, analyzed and identified.


Mr. Herteux, you have described a new type of capitalism. How would you describe it in a few words?
Behavioral Capitalism is a variant of capitalism in which human behavior becomes the central factor for the production and provision of goods and services.

Sounds very abstract at first.
This is true, and it also makes it very difficult to recognize Behavioral Capitalism at all. Actually, it's not that hard. Let's think of a baker and his buns. It should be clear to all of us what raw materials he will need for the production process. For our buns, maybe flour, water, yeast, and some salt. 

Let's jump from the bakery to the Internet. Most of us have already encountered personalized advertising. For example, we have been looking for a holiday in the mountains and suddenly we are confronted with emails, banner ads and social media reports on the subject. However, this personalized advertising can only be addressed to us if our behavior, in this case the search query, has been evaluated beforehand. All the services, advertisements, suggestions for friendship - all these rolls were baked from one dough: our behavior that was previously open, concealed or skimmed off in dialogue and then evaluated, which means that this raw material was transformed into prognosis and satisfaction products in a metaphorical behavioral factory in order to get something individual for us from the metaphorical oven.

If you look at it from the point of view, is behavior the flour of Internet companies?
Right, human behavior is, therefore, obviously a usable raw material, and this raw material has developed through technological progress into a production factor, which has led to entirely new business models, which in the meantime have a massive influence on economic, political and social life. It would be fatal to speak of just one business model here because its power is far too great for that. Rather, it is a new variation of capitalism: Behavioral Capitalism.

Is the use of human behavior really a new phenomenon?
Of course, human behavior has always been an essential factor and raw material. Already alone for the areas of sales and marketing, but also as raw material. Let us just think here of the insurance industry, which had already skimmed "behavior" from customers long before the modern age and thus designed new products and optimized old ones. In this industry, this raw material has always been more and more a primary basis for business. By the way, also in politics or, if you like it historically, in the sale of indulgences.
However, technical progress has almost infinitely increased the possibility of behavioral skimming, and they no longer need a human being for evaluation, but, to put it simply, only the learning machine. Just two numbers to underline this; Google alone had about 3.8 million searches by 2017 and Youtube 4.1 million video clicks. Per-minute. You can calculate approximately how many behavioral data can be skimmed off in one day, and for the most part a product or service can even be produced and offered immediately, even if it is only the answer to a search query.

My insurance agent can only dream of such amounts of data.
Insurance companies are much better positioned today, but you can see the difference in the right place. Only a change of times, the elements of which also include the rapid and dynamic development of technology and the conditioning of man to its use, which would be described as an irritant society, whereby we do not want to drift into psychology, have turned a raw material into a production factor. So today we can speak of Behavioral Capitalism.

Is there a parallel for such a development?

Yes, according to a similar principle, financial capitalism has outgrown classical capitalism. Although capital has always been an economic factor of production, it was only much too late to realize that it had led as an independent element to a new variety of capitalism. Even today, there are major problems in recognizing and correctly interpreting its mechanisms. That's why he can act a little under the radar. Here there is a parallel to Behavioral Capitalism.

Sohsana Zuboff also warns of the dangers of such a development, although she does not use the term "Behavioral Capitalism" that you coined, but speaks of surveillance capitalism.
Yes, and I appreciate her meticulous and critical work very much, but her concept of surveillance capitalism has little in common with the model of Behavioral Capitalism. Mrs. Zuboff sees her surveillance capitalism, and the word already betrays this, as something fundamentally negative and man-made, which a few people a few years ago came up with at Google to consciously gain power, wealth and influence. For Behavioral Capitalism, on the other hand, development is a logical consequence of capitalism and is in continuity. It is not a degeneration, as she calls it, but the water simply flows on. Companies like Google emerged from this river and not outside it somewhere on the dry bank.
Nevertheless, both of you were faced with the dangers.
It is true; however, surveillance capitalism views the development exclusively negatively. He wants to warn, wants to be subjective, and not necessarily show a model as a representation of reality. Behavioral Capitalism wants exactly that, therefore weighs up opportunities and risks and strives for a neutral presentation of general mechanisms. Of course, he also sees the possibilities of manipulation, but also the other side. Just think of our example of search queries. You will also receive an answer from Google & Co., and Youtube will show you the desired video. Personalized content does not have to be fundamentally bad, even if it is concealed because with embedding it may even be possible to identify needs that people would never have discovered without the new technology. Just take the example of a holiday in the mountains. Perhaps the learning machine works out for you that mountaineering has always been your passion? Would that be bad if you discovered such an inner need?
On the downside, there is of course, also the possibility of manipulation. We must defend ourselves against them, but we must not deceive ourselves, as much as we want to. Larger sections of the population, i.e. not a few milieus, will gladly exchange part of their freedom for an embedding that determines their needs and satisfies them. Perhaps some homo stimulus even gets the possibilities of self-development for the first time. That sounds frightening to some ears, but it will be reality. But resignation would be the wrong reaction. Rather, reality should encourage us to make it clear to everyone that they do not have to choose: embedding or freedom, but can have both. But there are not even any signs of this -- a very dangerous situation.

How should one confront the dangers of Behavioral Capitalism?
First of all by recognizing them and placing them in the right context. Behavioral Capitalism, together with the stimulus society, will trigger an era of collective individualism, in which the process of individualization will, however, be hampered by milieu struggles. Fundamental points with which we at the Erich von Werner Society deal in-depth because here is also the cause of the difficult social situation to see and not in obsolete explanatory models from the previous century such as the outdated left-right scheme.
This and the fact that we are on the threshold of a new era that will radically change the international balance of power in the coming decades must be realized and accepted. Something's moving. Even if we were to recognize this, we would need ideas and here we have unfortunately become very unimaginative or capitulate to a complex world and so many interrelationships, so we need a comprehensive solution that can solve all these problems. With the model of alternative hegemony (AH model) we have presented such a model that could correct capitalism and meet the great challenges of our time. With it, we can transform capitalism into a value market economy.
Change for the better is, therefore possible. All it takes is courage.

This interview is an excerpt from the book "First Foundations of Behavioral Capitalism: A New Variety of Capitalism Gains Power and Influence" (ISBN 978-3981900675) by Andreas Herteux. It is available everywhere. For further information, please visit the official presence of the Erich von Werner Society ( or that of the author (  

A world of change enables a new variety of capitalism to gain more and more power and influence. Through technological development, capitalism is increasingly influencing social, political, economic and individual life without its mechanisms having been clearly identified so far. This gap closes the Model of Behavioral Capitalism, which gives the approximate a structure that should enable a general discussion. This monograph consists of previous journalistic and scientific publications and supplements them with parts of the discussion.