The Networked Media Economy and the Indian Gilded Age
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Given Mukesh Ambani’s status as (by far) India’s wealthiest individual, his claim that a counter movement against ‘data colonisation’ from large US based firms will return the “control and ownership of Indian data and wealth back to every Indian” should compel some critical questions about the line between public good and private wealth when it comes to assessing the strategic imperatives of India’s homegrown digital platforms and technology companies. In taking up this enquiry, this chapter is divided into five major points of discussion. Firstly, the notion of an ‘Indian Gilded Age’, premised on the proportional wealth and influence of Indian billionaires, is discussed with reference to the historical relationship between the state and capital in India. Secondly, given debates over new forms of economic dependency arising from the power of digital platforms, a Braudelian model of global capitalism is explored in the context of the networked media economy. The third point of discussion examines the consolidation of India’s domestic telecommunications and communications conglomerates, which increasingly influence the operations of the far smaller cultural and media industries. The fourth point of discussion is the financialisation of the networked media economy, and distinctive characteristics of capital interests in the Indian context. This naturally segues into the fifth point, which returns to the role of the state as the regulator and champion of capital in the platform economy. The chapter concludes by questioning the limitations of a world systems approach, which can be, and often is, marshalled to support the interests of dominant nationally-based companies.
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