This paper takes Friedrich Engels 200th birthday on 28 November 2020 as occasion to ask: How relevant are Friedrich Engels’s works in the age of digital capitalism? It shows that Engels class-struggle oriented theory can and should inform 21st century social science and digital social research.
Based on a reading of Engels’s works, the article discusses how to think of scientific socialism as critical social science today, presents a critique of computational social science as digital positivism, engages with foundations of digital labour analysis, the analysis of the international division of digital labour, updates Engels’s Condition of the Working Class in England in the age of digital capitalism, analyses the role of trade unions and digital class struggles in digital age, analyses the social murder of workers in the COVID-19 crisis, engages with platform co-operatives, digital commons projects and public service Internet platforms as concrete digital utopias that point beyond digital capital(ism). Engels’s analysis is updated for critically analysing the digital conditions of the working class today, including the digital labour of hardware assemblers at Foxconn and Pegatron, the digital labour aristocracy of software engineers at Google, online freelance workers, platform workers at capitalist platform corporations such as Uber, Deliveroo, Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer, and the digital labour of Facebook users.
Engels’s 200th birthday reminds us of the class character of digital capitalism and that we need critical digital social science as a new form of scientific socialism.