Digital Disconnect

How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

An “informed and engaging” (Counterpunch) analysis of capitalism and the Internet, from the author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy

“No one knows this field better than McChesney, and with this book he has reached the pinnacle.”
—Matthew Rothschild, senior editor of The Progressive

Hailed as “important” (Truthdig) and praised for its “excellent insight” (Patricia J. Williams, The Nation), Digital Disconnect skewers the assumption that a society drenched in information in a digital age is inherently a democratic one.

A prescient examination of the relationship between the Internet and the economy—one that has become even more relevant since its publication in hardcover—the book argues that capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made it an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance.

“A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States” (Kirkus Reviews) and “an excellent analysis of the problem where a medium with the capacity to empower people is itself becoming a tool of social control” (Daily Kos), Digital Disconnect is both a groundbreaking critique of the Internet and an urgent call to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.


“Once again, McChesney stands at the crossroads of media dysfunction and the denial of democracy, illuminating the complex issues involved and identifying a path forward to try to repair the damage. Here's hoping the rest of us have the good sense to listen this time.”
—Eric Alterman, professor of English and journalism, Brooklyn College, CUNY
“McChesney penetrates to the heart of the issue: Change the System/Change the Internet. Both/And—not Either/Or. Indispensable reading as we lay the groundwork for the coming great movement to reclaim America. ”
—Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, and professor of political economy, University of Maryland
“A major new work by one of the nation’s leading analysts of media. . . . Steering between the treacherous Scylla and Charybdis of Internet boosters and skeptics, McChesney shows how the economic context of the digital environment is making the difference between an open and democratic internet, and one which is manipulated for private gain. A hard-to-put-down, meticulously researched must-read.”
—Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy
“If you’re concerned about democracy or the direction of the Internet, this is the book for you! With a panoramic sweep and profound insights, McChesney rings the alarm bells, showing clearly how capitalism is swallowing up the promise of the Internet. No one knows this field better than McChesney, and with this book he has reached the pinnacle.”
—Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive
“A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States . . . a valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Over the past twenty years, the world has experienced both a profound communications revolution delivered by the internet and an equally profound rise in economic inequality and instability delivered by neoliberal capitalism. Digital Disconnect explores the connections between these epoch-defining trends with clarity, depth, originality, and verve. Robert W. McChesney advances a strong case that achieving the potential of the internet as a force for good requires nothing less than unshackling it from the capitalist social order now defining its trajectory. ”
—Robert Pollin, professor of economics and co-director, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst
“Too often discussions about the democratic potential of the digital revolution treat the Internet and related communication technologies as if they existed in a vacuum. Digital Disconnect disabuses us of this notion, making a convincing case that one can only understand these technologies and how they are used through the lens of political economy, and that the capitalist political economy in which they are currently embedded in the United States is anathema to a truly democratic information environment.”
—Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
“A thorough and alarming critique of the corruption of one of the most influential inventions in human history.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

News and Reviews

Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman interviews Robert McChesney on Democracy Now!

The Huffington Post

HuffPost Media blog reviews Digital Disconnect


Counterpunch reviews Digital Disconnect

Books by Robert W. McChesney

Rich Media, Poor Democracy
Communication Politics in Dubious Times

Robert W. McChesney

Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights
The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done to Fix It

Robert W. McChesney, Victor Pickard

Our Unfree Press
100 Years of Radical Media Criticism

Robert W. McChesney, Ben Scott

Tragedy and Farce
How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy

John Nichols, Robert W. McChesney

Goodreads Reviews