On Douglas Rushkoff’s “Survival of the Richest”

On Douglas Rushkoff’s “Survival of the Richest”

IN THE EARLY 2000s, North American business owners bought 11,000 acres of land in Chile’s Casablanca Valley with the unique concept, as they saw it, of constructing a lasting, independent haven from culture. Conjuring up Ayn Rand’s famous Atlantis-in-the-Rockies from her 1957 book Atlas Shrugged, the capitalists called the neighborhood Galt’s Gulch. Amongst them was Jeff Berwick, that would consequently go on to Mexico, where he aided discovered as well as run the yearly liberal Anarchopulco meeting. [1] In the 2010s, a brand-new plant of capitalists suggested a comparable job — this moment called Ft Galt — additional southern, outside the Chilean city of Valdivia.

The Galt’s Gulch desire is a traditional capitalist retreat dream: rich captains of sector hideaway to deluxe substances much from the substandard masses, where they suggest to suffer the financial implosion that will certainly arise from their exodus. Yet as Douglas Rushkoff’s brand-new publication Survival of the Richest: Getaway Dreams of the Technology Billionaires advises us, needing to stand young Randians “going Galt” might be the least of our issues. The different Galt’s Gulches of the brand-new century are just one symptom of a series of hypercapitalist retreat intends that intimidate to leave the remainder people paying the economic, eco-friendly, as well as political expenses.


The opening web pages of Survival of the Richest define what might quickly be a scene from a James Bond book. Our lead character — in this situation, Rushkoff — is flying in service course to a far-off flight terminal. Supplied with high-ends like noise-canceling earphones as well as heated nuts, he will certainly be satisfied by a premium limo as well as shuttled to a remote desert place. Every one of this goes to the invite as well as cost of an unrevealed team of mystical billionaires.

Regardless of the huge gratuity these billionaires provide him, the precise factor they have actually welcomed him to their hideaway is originally mystical: as best as he can figure, he is to give basic understanding on innovation as well as its future. As soon as he lastly satisfies them the following day, he is amazed to find that they are seeking his assistance on just how to endure what they describe as “The Occasion” — “the ecological collapse, social discontent, nuclear surge, solar tornado, unstoppable infection, or harmful computer system hack that takes every little thing down.” In their need to safeguard themselves from the most awful effects of such circumstances, these people have actually started to create different lines of retreat: shelters, seasteads, prepare for room swarms, and so on. The catch is that the apocalyptic futures they are afraid are mainly a repercussion of their very own economic, eco-friendly, technical, as well as ideological dedications. That they reject to avoid completion of Times by altering their actions is the main impracticality installed in what Rushkoff calls “The Attitude” (structure on Richard Barbrook as well as Andy Cameron’s 1995 essay “The Californian Ideological Background”).

Throughout the succeeding phases, Rushkoff tracks a series of tasks that might be credited the Attitude. The very early phases occupy the concept of retreat in its most noticeable type: exodus from culture writ huge. We fulfill a selection of personalities, beginning with J. C. Cole, the previous head of state of Latvia’s American Chamber of Business, that has actually developed a number of “Safe house Farms” at New york city City for millionaire preppers intending to weather the initial years of collapse not as separated people however as component of an exclusive neighborhood. The ranches would certainly operate as financial investment chances: millionaires might survive on the ranches, earn a profit from food manufacturing, as well as “guarantee there are as couple of starving youngsters at eviction as feasible.” Cole is not curious about simply a couple of such militarized safe houses however in scaling approximately the factor of “restor[ing] local food safety in America.” Rushkoff sees Cole’s suggestions as participating in nature, which he hints might be the factor he has actually been not able to draw in capitalists. Billionaire preppers, he says, are not curious about neighborhood.

So, what are they curious about? Well, for something, “aristocrat” deluxe shelters with bowling lanes, red wine safes, as well as pool that choose an amazing $8.3 million. As well as drifting, exclusive seasteads on the open sea that lug an in a similar way substantial price. As well as a host of various other systems meant to safeguard them from all type of grim facts. Yet these are crazy survival approaches. The microclimates are also picky for long-lasting line of work, as well as no atmosphere can be genuinely sealed from the exterior. Equally as essential, points break; substitute components require to be produced, supplied, as well as set up; substances require to be shielded, as well as their guards maintained faithful; etc. To put it simply, labor is a necessary as well as noticeable misstep. The stupidity of Rand’s dream of Galt’s Gulch was constantly the following: Miffed plutocrats escape to a Rocky Hill pull away? Amazing. That requires them? The genuine labor that maintains points functioning will certainly proceed without them. The anxiety with which the uber-capitalist course hold on to a liberal vocabulary of “uniqueness” as well as “self-sovereignty” recommends that, at some degree, they identify their very own parasitism. As well as undoubtedly, it ends up that the billionaires that welcomed Rushkoff bent on the desert desire, greater than anything, his authorization of their liberal thoughtful placements.

After these very early phases, nonetheless, Survival of the Richest ends up being much less concerning geographical than architectural retreat — as well as even more typically concerning the methods which a hyperindividualist point of view has actually penetrated our financial, social, as well as political landscape, specifically via techno-capitalist epistemologies as well as approaches. Industrialism as well as innovation have, Rushkoff composes, “created an equally strengthening comments loophole that motivates business owners to imagine a future ruled by economic sector innovations.” Rushkoff covers a great deal of ground — from Airbnb as well as its anti-regulatory desires to Uber as well as transportation preparation; from the unrelenting quest of “hockey stick” development contours to the fascination with substantial rois for investors; from Facebook as well as the Metaverse to Burning Male as well as Wired publication; from reviews of empiricism to adventures right into language.

What ends up being clear is that Rushkoff wishes to save the shed assurance of innovation, currently damaged by “severe industrialism.” He rues, for instance, just how market perceptiveness involved control the technology industry, starting with the fallen short AOL–Time Detector merging in 2000. Before that, he says, an extra appealing as well as flexible electronic future dominated: it was “a play area for the counterculture, that saw in it the chance to design an extra comprehensive, dispersed, as well as participatory future.” Yet the counterculture had its very own business, ordered, as well as lone wolf values, to claim absolutely nothing of its gendered as well as racialized characteristics, therefore Rushkoff’s lament for technology’s gold years really feels naïve as well as classic. [2] It likewise mirrors the techno-optimism of his very own topics, obsessed as they get on technical services to social concerns. Yet technical solutions to social issues are a mirage. A comprehensive, dispersed, as well as participatory future will certainly not be the outcome of innovation however of altering the social system. Innovation might be a large offer, however the elephant in the space is billionaires’ riches as well as outsized impact. It is the reality that they are billionaires that protects them from the effects of their very own activities as well as obliges them to block as well as vicious initiatives to structurally resolve what ails us.


The cover for Survival of the Richest includes a tiny island with a couple of hand trees inside a snow-globe bubble. The picture is a little deceptive — Rushkoff is much less curious about a certain location of retreat than in the architectural concept of retreat. Yet also if he had an interest in the locations of retreat, the island theme is barely ideal. The exclusive, gated, sovereign neighborhood would certainly be much more ideal. A capitalist monolith to geographical as well as social secession, it rests apart yet straight in our middle, simultaneously independent people however reliant upon us. (Where will you discover labor if you bugger off to a far-off island?) Below one ought to rely on the creativity of among the darkest dreamers of our future: J. G. Ballard.

Ballard was not a lot a futurist as a near-presentist. With an astonishing capacity to see simply past the coming close to perspective, he comprehended just how one of the most mundanely miserable elements of our presence would certainly hinder us for the long run. In jobs such as Concrete Island (1974) as well as High-Rise (1975), he checked out the misconceptions of human being as well as primitive culture that keyed the pump of timeless liberalism. Yet a lot of appropriate was his book Super-Cannes (2000), which occurs in a modern domestic service park called Eden-Olympia, situated on the French Riviera. Below, the ultra-wealthy online cloistered in had settings, exercising their company at will certainly on the neighborhood populace.

An upsetting picture of where the globe has actually been for a long time, it is no coincidence that the “bigwigs” of Eden-Olympia do their “amusing” at Vacation home Grimaldi, which was the name of among the a lot more notorious abuse camps in Santiago, Chile, established by the routine of tyrant Augusto Pinochet after the armed forces successful stroke d’état versus the democratically chosen federal government of Salvador Allende. (Vacation home Grimaldi, significantly, was positioned in the middle of a property community in eastern Santiago.) In toppling Allende, the Pinochet routine likewise toppled the dynamic financial as well as political job to which Allende’s management had actually devoted itself. In its location, as well as with the close aid of College of Chicago economic expert Milton Friedman as well as his trainees, Pinochet by force executed an extreme experiment in social as well as financial design. Pinochet as well as Friedman, devoted to what they called “shock treatment,” took down Chile’s social safety systems, cumulative negotiating civil liberties, safeguard, well-being systems, as well as public provisioning. This neoliberal counterrevolution reduced its teeth on the functioning course as well as lumpenproletariat. Chile was, as one supporter for Eden-Olympia places it in Super-Cannes, “a big experiment in just how to hothouse the future.”

Friedman as well as his fans look a whole lot like today’s “disrupters,” as they are currently called. In a similar way, shock treatment can be taken a very early model of Silicon Valley’s motto “action quick as well as damage points.” Shock treatment, it ends up, established the phase for modern retreat dreams. It is no coincidence that Friedman’s grand son, Patri, was the initial supervisor of the Seasteading Institute (TSI). Established in 2008 with Peter Thiel’s sponsorship, it is devoted to getting away the nation-state by constructing independent drifting systems on the high seas. Thiel notoriously proclaimed freedom as well as flexibility to be inappropriate. The declaration is completely consonant with a political concept that comprehends “flexibility” as emancipation from federal government (or cumulative) oversight as well as law. It might be a grim paradox, however it is likewise ideologically regular that Friedman released a job called Free to Pick: An Individual Declaration (1980) also as he assisted as well as urged a totalitarian in the damage of Chile’s social freedom. Market “flexibility” might just have actually taken place via pressure. Also one of the most forthright free-market diehards confess that little of what Pinochet as well as Friedman established would certainly have taken place through autonomous procedures. The exact same holds true for the current initiatives by different technology brothers as well as previous Reagan authorities to develop charter cities as well as “complimentary” exclusive cities in Honduras: their initiatives (so far not successful) were just feasible as a result of the 2009 armed forces successful stroke d’état that toppled the democratically chosen federal government of Manuel Zelaya.

Freedom is a thorn in the side of Promethean world-builders, from the neoliberal ideologues fighting the New Offer in the postwar period to the modern seasteaders as well as supporters of charter cities, from Rand as well as Friedman to Thiel as well as Musk. The untidy procedure of agreement structure, as well as of debate as well as concession, is taboo to their self-centered concept of anti-politics. The refrains are foreseeable: Federal government mishandles. Rules hinder imagination. Oversight is overbearing. Agreement as well as concession take excessive time. Political leaders are corrupt as well as the plebes don’t understand what benefits them. What is to be done? Count on the disrupters. Welcome greed (“reliable selflessness,” any person?). Introduce. Let loose the business sea serpent! In this making, national politics is a stumbling block, as caught by mottos like the Free Country Structure’s “Quit Complaining. Beginning Structure,” or, a lot more just recently, the Start-up Societies Network’s “Don’t Say. Construct.”

I will certainly brace in the meantime a variety of noticeable concerns that develop from establishing such mottos (they recommend that their supporters have actually never ever needed to manage zoning concerns or are completely great with not testing a next-door neighbor that wishes to construct a signboard before their bay home window or a shooting array in their yard, or unload harmful waste in the yard, or chef meth in the cellar, or … well, you understand). Allow me direct rather to their insidiously oppressive need to leave dispute as well as national politics from the procedure of structure. As well as yet, the fundamental structures of flexibility are undoubtedly improved the capacity of individuals to talk as well as set up as well as, as social movie critic Marshall Berman has actually kept in mind, “to say,” little of which was endured in Pinochet’s Chile.

This background issues: partly as a suggestion that the lead characters of Rushkoff’s publication are just the most up to date model of the rich — whether through landed building, money, or technology — that improve themselves by ruining others, end up being effective by deteriorating others, as well as exercise their voice by silencing others. The Silicon Valley technology titans like to see themselves as distinct — as distinct as things they assert to develop — however their Attitude is absolutely acquired.


Survival of the Richest is a fast read. The writing is stylish, the figure of speeches remarkable, the rate out of breath. It teems with succinct solutions (the Attitude, “the dumbwaiter result,” “the insulation formula,” etc) that record a method or procedure the writer is attempting to clarify. Yet these identical top qualities make it an irritating read. Sometimes it seems like a recorded TED Talk, with every one of the disadvantages one could connect with such a type, specifically theoretical overgeneralization as well as bibliographic slimness. [3] The capacious series of guide is exciting, however the evaluation really feels raw, with lots of missed out on chances for even more significant expedition.

A fine example is Rushkoff’s communications with the different topics that are main to guide. Rushkoff advises us typically that he has actually invested rather a great deal of time with the billionaires as well as high-powered pundits at the leading edge of the Attitude. They have actually welcomed him to their high end loft spaces, desert resorts, as well as Central Park West houses, as well as on all-expenses-paid Caribbean trips, as well as to unique seminars. This is not always an issue. Such invites, nevertheless, might give understanding not readily available via typical resources. Yet seldom does anything of uncommon compound or deepness arise from these minutes of ethnographic opportunity. They do, nonetheless, elevate the inquiry of why numerous of these unpleasant numbers rely on Rushkoff for recommendations, specifically when he buffoons them. Could it be that his review is one that they can deal with or perhaps that helps them? Has he, in spite of his antipathy, succumbed to their appeals?

There are minutes in guide that made me question. At an early stage, he recommends that his billionaires are targets of the really video games they play. Instead of being culture’s victors, he composes, “these guys are in fact the losers.” That’s, well, a little bit abundant. I discovered myself going over the flow a 2nd break loud in the voice of hypercapitalist caricature Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons (“This confidential clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has actually cost me the political election, as well as yet if I were to have them eliminated, I would certainly be the one to head to prison. That’s freedom for you”). I attempted to visualize in what methods these individuals (as well as they are almost all man) are targets or losers. I couldn’t.

Partly, this is since Rushkoff did not offer me the ways to do so. The visitor obtains no genuine feeling of that these billionaires are as people. They stay frustratingly one-dimensional. This might be willful, the concept being that to pay them excessive focus would certainly be to approve them a degree of authenticity they do not advantage; I am understanding to such a debate. Yet it is a great line to stroll. Attending their occasions as well as approving their invites as well as cash, nevertheless, could likewise give a type of authenticity. In addition, no matter their authenticity (or do not have thereof), they have substantial company. There is basically absolutely nothing that they do not touch, from the selecting system to the economic climate to urbanism to social networks to emotional war as well as advertising and marketing. They might live bland lives, however they are barely targets.

Rushkoff’s objective is partially for the visitor to see these billionaires as well as their tasks as unreasonable, also foolish. Once again, I can see the destination in such a strategy. I have actually discovered it hard to prevent snark as well as mockery in my very own discussing several of these personalities. Yet it strikes me in this circumstances as fizzling. For something, while it might be that their most special visions are very not likely ahead to fulfillment, their factor might not be to attain their most enthusiastic ends however to capitalize on the chances developed in the process — chances that include additional privatization, enhanced riches variations, as well as social exemptions of the kind we currently see. The phenomenon belongs to the scam. It is no mishap that companies such as the Seasteading Institute include their challengers’ taunting right into their sales pitches. When the Netflix collection Love, Fatality & Robots (2019–existing) did a computer animated brief buffooning “departure” approaches such as bunker-prepping as well as seasteading, the Seasteading Institute referenced the taunting in its advertising products.

Naturally they would certainly: being rejected as unusual delusionaries is main to the story that technology escapists like to outline themselves as misconstrued daydreamers as well as unappreciated brilliants. It is, furthermore, a type of sales pitch deception. They rely on us being also active gazing agape, poking fun at the absurdity of the vision or regreting the dishonesty of technology’s emancipatory opportunities, to discover the traditional odor of removal, dispossession, as well as colonial sleaze floating airborne.


After 185 web pages of apocalyptic bang, Survival of the Richest finishes with something of a whimper. “There’s no ‘option’ to our troubles,” Rushkoff wraps up, “besides keeping a softer, a lot more open, as well as a lot more accountable conduct towards each other.” It is difficult not to visualize the shelter billionaires responding favorably. No expropriations or nationalizations. No hostile criminal examinations or enhanced prison time for swindling the general public, or for Ponzi systems, or for the burglary of the future. No persistence on enhanced oversight as well as law. No architectural modifications. Rather, mindfulness.

When faced with the inquiry of what is to be done, Rushkoff appears unwilling to take seriously his very own evaluation. Although he self-identifies as a Marxist, instead of solid state activity he promotes for relatively ordinary “alternate methods” such as common help, much better customer options, modifications in tax obligation plan, as well as assistance of unionizing job employees. At one degree, naturally, it is difficult to differ with any one of these. That’s against common help? Or unions? These are techniques, day-to-day methods, that can minimize one of the most outright impacts of capitalist exploitation as well as removal. Yet as a political method to test a ruthlessly unequal culture, these methods want.

The Attitude is not simply a mindset; it has a materiality as well as product effects. Provided its supporters’ unscrupulous values as well as capacity to damage the earth, the Attitude requires to be beat as opposed to neglected or, even worse, endured. Do we actually wish to simply disregard when Elon Musk weeps “Fuck Planet!” as well as aims for Mars while tweeting favorably concerning feasible successful strokes d’état since he wishes to guarantee the lithium removal whereupon his firm counts? No question we should involve with each other in manner ins which mirror the globe in which we wish to live. Yet living as one could desire to live is a far-off desire for much of the earth’s populace, whose lives are — straight as well as indirectly, extremely as well as discreetly — designed day-to-day by the tasks of the billionaire shelter course. Disregarding those tasks as well as acting much better will barely alter that. “It is not by rejecting to exist that we will certainly eliminate lies,” composed Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1948 writing on course battle, the play Filthy Hands.

Urban philosopher as well as chronicler Mike Davis kept in mind in an essay on environment adjustment that we are not done in this with each other: a team of “excellent guests” takes a trip stylishly on our earth while an expanding climate-lumpen duke it out in the warm of the coming close to fires. Once it obtains also warm, those exclusive guests will certainly leap ship — to below ground shelters, or to the sea, or possibly to orbital environments, or probably to greatly prepared exclusive substances. Having actually attempted to run away fatality as well as tax obligations, they will certainly next off wish to leave us as well as the problems that they have actually aided develop. So, what is to be done? Davis’s factor was that, for everyone, we require to eliminate their special departure choices, their “insulation formula,” as Rushkoff places it. If the future is as alarming as numerous recommend — as well as all indicators are that it is — we ought to do so quickly. Revealing the Attitude is a beginning, that makes Survival of the Richest a required as well as prompt read in spite of its imperfections.


Raymond Craib is Marie Underhill Noll Teacher of Background at Cornell College as well as the writer, most just recently, of Journey Industrialism: A Background of Libertarian Departure, from the Period of Decolonization to the Digital Age (PM Press, 2022).


[1] As Todd Schramke’s 2022 HBO docudrama The Anarchists information, the meeting degenerated right into fatality as well as chaos in between 2018 as well as 2022.

[2] See Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand Name, the entire Planet Network, as well as the Surge of Digital Utopianism (College of Chicago Press, 2006). Rushkoff referrals Turner’s publication at one factor however does not actually explore the ramifications of its debate.

[3] Better researches of Silicon Valley consist of Noam Cohen’s The Know-It-Alls: The Surge of Silicon Valley as a Political Giant as well as a Social Wrecking Sphere (New Press, 2017); Paulina Borsook’s Cyberselfish: An Important Rollick With the Extremely Liberal Society of High-Tech (PublicAffairs, 2000); Mark O’Connell’s Notes from an Armageddon: An Individual Trip throughout of the Globe as well as Back (Doubleday, 2020); as well as Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Monitoring Industrialism: The Defend a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (PublicAffairs, 2018). For jobs that relocate past the uniqueness of technology, Wendy Brown’s Reversing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Transformation (Area Books, 2015); Mark Fisher’s Industrialism Realistic Look: Exists No Choice? (No Books, 2009); as well as Richard Pedestrian’s Photos Of a Gone City: Technology as well as the Dark Side of Success in the San Francisco Bay Location (PM Press, 2018). The ultimate message for some outsized libertarians, such as Peter Thiel, is James Dale Davidson as well as William Rees-Mogg’s The Sovereign Person: Just How to Endure as well as Prosper Throughout the Collapse of the Well-being State (Simon & Schuster, 1997), which describes the job of privatization as well as neo-feudalism quite straight.

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