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Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Bezos Era: How the Amazon founder changed the world in pursuit of “consumer ecstasy”

The world’s richest man resigns as CEO of his company to focus all his attention elsewhere. Let’s analyze his inescapable legacy.

In 1996, shortly after founding Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos he explained to his first employees “when they ‘re little, someone bigger can always come to want and take what you have”. This is the fundamental mantra of the Bezos Era (1994-2021?), A period in human history in which a single man concentrated a fortune greater than that of the Medici, the Robber Barons and anyone who had previously held the title of the richest person or group of people on the planet. The very origin of the company lives up to that predatory eat-or-eat-you philosophy: Jeff and MacKenzie did not choose Seattle as their headquarters because of its proximity to Microsoft’s technical department (interesting when you want to build a web page out of nowhere to mid-1990s), but because Washington state in those days gave it a tax advantage over its competition.By establishing itself as an online bookstore, Amazon was not required to pay the same sales taxes as local businesses, as anyone who has seen You have an e-mail (Nora Ephron, 1998), in which Tom Hanks plays a Bezzian figure and Meg Ryan is a freelance bookseller, you know. The foundations of his emporium are based, then, on the total and complete annihilation of the smallest fish. Amazon is not a company: it is a nation-state. It is a political entity by nature. 

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When the all-powerful CEO of a company more oriented towards the cult of personality than it seems decided to take a step back last week , leaving the keys to the kingdom in the hands of Andy Jassy (henchman and head of the successful Amazon Web Services ), the analysts could not hide their surprise. The official version is that Bezos abandons his day-to-day activities to concentrate on some of his expensive hobbies , including updating his personal blog, entitled “The Washington Post” , and conquering outer space.. Meanwhile, Jassy will have to face the challenges presented by a future perhaps too uncertain for his predecessor in office, since, although it is evident that Amazon is coming from doubling its income in 2020 – we are talking about 24 billion dollars, or that the pandemic and lockdowns have been manna for his business model – all signs point to the world in which Jeff Bezos prospered as an e-commerce alpha male is beginning to decline. During the 1920s, a handful of tech companies that emerged from the laboratory of ideas and political influence that is Silicon Valley set out to aggressively rewrite the rules of the economic game in the United States, supported by a majority of republican leaders who never hid their will to progressively annul the antitrust laws conquered during the last century. Amazon, and specifically Bezos, took advantage of this context to plunder, concentrate and consolidate the greatest possible amount of power , which ended up turning her into a mega-corporation above any government and him into the closest thing to an absolutist monarch who we can imagine in this day and time.

In the last twenty years, the Big A model has been based on the insidious penetration and absorption of businesses, consumer goods, social habits, and, in short, practically every part of public life . Not content with getting into our homes in the form of packages distributed by automated drones, the company ended up taking full control through its home automation branch, with Echo and Alexa as spearheads. He also wants to be a majority shareholder of our collective unconscious through Prime Video, Amazon Music or Kindle, three of his many weapons aimed at consumer satisfaction, a personal obsession of Bezos. Mark O’Connell puts it in a much more graphic way on the pages of The Guardian :what Amazon has contributed to our lives and to capitalism, to the point of turning both realities upside down, is a kind of consumerist ecstasy . The illusion of a complete and immediate satisfaction of our needs, as simple as pressing a button and automatically receiving the product at our door. Meanwhile, the rest of the tentacles can freely dedicate themselves to cloud computing, microchip development, drug distribution or military contracts . We left the caves to inhabit the farms, from there we jump to the towns and cities, but now we live on the Internet, which is the same as saying that we live on Amazon. We blinked for a moment and the planet happened to belong to a single person. And now, like Doctor Manhattan before her, that person has grown bored with Earth.

Jeff Bezos may have a minute to look down as he sets out to conquer the last frontier. What you will see is his legacy: an autonomous economy that reflects the asymmetries and inequalities of the system as a whole , where 99% of the wealth remains at the top and the grassroots workers, a true backbone, regret being poorly paid and underpaid protected from the rigors of the pandemic while being prohibited at all. Amazon can build as many cash register-less supermarkets as it wants, but it will always have to rely on that workforce that it systematically hides and ignores. However, the legacy of the Bezos Era may not remain intact for long. It may, in fact, have been the main reason why the emperor has decided to go behind the scenes, leaving it to Jassy to meet the increasingly defiant demands of his workers, testify before Congress and give explanations when the European Commission catch Amazon again abusing private information about its sellers. With increasing government scrutiny, the conflicts of interest that until now were cheerfully allowed are becoming too unjustifiable. Little by little, the old spirit of antitrust laws works its way through the cracks of consumer ecstasy .

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