The reward of merit : digital constructions of the economic self.


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This paper utilizes rhetorical criticism to situate three rhetors within larger discourses surrounding work ethic and economic success. It argues that the work of John Perry Barlow, Paul Graham, and Gary Vaynerchuk are important to an understanding of the evolution of economic discourse in the digital age. Specifically, it shows that Graham and Vaynerchuk rely on themes present in Barlow’s work to position individual merit as the sole determining factor in economic success. Those arguments emphasize three main themes: the value of individual tenacity, technological inevitability, and the positioning of the market as an omnipotent and nonpartisan deity. By critiquing the rhetorical appeals, metaphors, and narrative tropes employed by the rhetors, this paper situates digital motivation or “hustle” discourse within the larger realm of economic rhetorics.



Economics. Rhetoric. Economy. Merit. Work ethic.