Digital Capitalism and (EU) Digital Policymaking


Timo Seidl


July 2, 2024

Course Description

From meeting people to building things, from ordering food to consuming news, digital technologies have become ubiquitous in our social and economic lives. This process of digitalization, whereby more and more of what we think, say, and do becomes mediated by digital technologies, which confronts societies with a number of challenges ranging from questions of competition policy to content moderation to rethinking welfare states. Technology, however, is not social destiny. In fact, societies can - and do respond to the rise of digital capitalism very differently. In this context, the EU in particular has emerged as a global leader in digital policymaking, being sometimes dubbed a ‘regulatory superpower’ in the digital space. This raises three questions. First, who can we understand the drivers and dynamics of digital capitalism? Second, how can we understand the varying politics of digital capitalism? And third, how can we understand EU digital policymaking in particular? In this course, we will look at these three questions successively, taking into account interests, institutions, and ideas. We will first discuss various attempts to make sense of digital capitalism and its material and ideational underpinnings. We will then try to shed light on the political dynamics surrounding digital capitalism, looking at the specific challenges digital platforms pose and the variegated nature and success of political responses. Lastly, we will zoom in on the European Union’s digital agenda and its attempts to achieve ‘digital sovereignty’, trying to ascertain the promises and pitfalls of the European digital model.