Patriarchy in the Digital Conjuncture: An Analysis of Google’s James Damore

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2020 Number 102

Patriarchy in the Digital Conjuncture: An Analysis of Google’s James Damore
Ben Little, Alison Winch pages 44-63
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:102.04.2020


Our case study looks at the events surrounding the sacking of Google engineer James Damore who was fired for authoring a memo which stated that women are biologically less suited to high-stress, high-status technical employment than men. Damore, asserting that his document ‘was absolutely consistent with what he’d seen online’, instantly became an ambivalent hero of the alt-right. In the media furore that followed, surveys indicated widespread support for Damore’s position within the tech industry. Like the men who own and run the companies of Silicon Valley, the software engineer subscribes to the idea that the world can be understood and altered through the rigorous application of the scientific method. And as he draws on bodies of knowledge from evolutionary psychology and mathematical biology, we see how the core belief structures of Silicon Valley, when transferred from the technical to the cultural and social domain, can reproduce the sort of misogynistic ‘rationalism’ that fuels the alt-right. We argue that Damore’s memo is in line with Google’s ideology of ‘dataism’: that is the belief that the world can be reduced to decontextualised information and subject to quantifiable logics. Through its use of dataism, the memo reveals much about the similarities and continuities between Damore, the ideas laid out in his memo, and Google itself. Rather than being in opposition, these two entities are jostling for a place in the patriarchal structures of a new form of capitalism.

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To cite this article
Ben Little, Alison Winch (2020) Patriarchy in the Digital Conjuncture: An Analysis of Google’s James Damore, New Formations, 2020(102), 44-63.

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