What social, political and economic ideas shape the culture of Silicon Valley today? 

The social issues in Silicon Valley


Silicon Valley from above” by Nouhailler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Silicon Valley includes parts of the California counties of Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo (Perrin, 2002).It not only serves as a global centre for innovation and technology but is also home to hundreds of tech firms, such as Apple, Google, and Amazon (Perrin, 2002). Hence, the term Silicon Valley has become a synonym for leading high-technology enterprises. The culture of Silicon Valley can be partially characterised by a blurring boundary between work and life, the exclusion of state regulation, and worker flexibilization (Lusoli & Turner, 2020). The ideas of hegemonic masculinity in social aspects, libertarian political ideology, and achieving rapid economic growth still shape the culture of Silicon Valley today.

The social idea of hegemonic masculinity

The features of masculinity are embedded in Silicon Valley employees’ definitions of work. For instance, Alan Payne, one of the technology workers who participated in the study, continued to work during paternity leave since he felt the internal pressure to work with the message that he would be replaced if he was not working all the time (Cooper, 2000). Alan considers his addiction to working as his own will because the firms in Silicon Valley have no strict requirements on working hours or workplace, but the concern of being replaced implies an external force from a competitive labour market. Furthermore, Cooper (2000) points out that high-tech workers’ internal desire to work is triggered by the external pressures resulting from an implicit comparison to a Silicon Valley standard of the necessary amount of work. The self-enforcing devotion to work at the expense of all personal costs is so prevalent that it constitutes a part of the normative understanding of work and becomes a control strategy in the technology industry (Cooper, 2000). This exacerbates the ambiguity of the line between the personal and professional spheres, which is one of the characteristics of Silicon Valley culture, as Lusoli & Turner (2020) indicated. Therefore, the idea of hegemonic masculinity influences the culture of Silicon Valley as the belief of self-sacrifice and the competitive spirit suffuse the Silicon Valley work culture.

In addition, the facet of toxic masculinity is reinforced in a male-dominated tech industry. The data collected in 2020 illustrated that female workers make up only 28.8 percent of the workforce in the tech industry. The gender gap as indicative of a masculinist culture explicitly conveys the severity of gender inequalities women face in the tech industry. This is consolidated in the survey called “Elephant in the valley”, which reveals that 88 percent of female participants have experienced unconscious biases from their male peers in Silicon Valley. Hence, the concept of masculinity shapes the culture of Silicon Valley by creating an unwelcoming work environment for female.

How Did Tech Become So Male-Dominated by The Atlantic. All rights reserved. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ7zX6LalLI&t=1s

Libertarian views on political aspects

The countercultural idea that a computer is an instrument of personal freedom instead of bureaucratic control opened the door to libertarian culture in Silicon Valley (Lusoli & Turner, 2020). Libertarianism still shapes the culture of Silicon Valley today, as the firms are fighting for non-conventionist policies from the government in the name of freedom. For instance, in 2018, Facebook was lobbying against data protection regulations while advocating for data protection in 2018. Facebook’s attempt to exclude state regulation and claim reflects the application of libertarianism. However, this instance simultaneously contradicts the ideology of libertarianism to a certain level. The opposition to data protection from Facebook is to preserve the profits technology companies can earn from data monitoring (Jiménez, 2020), which allows the firms to invade users’ freedom. This demonstrates that high-tech companies’ interests are prioritised in Silicon Valley’s ideologies and the public interest can be inevitably demoted. Therefore, the ideas of libertarianism shape the culture of Silicon Valley as they are reflected in Silicon Valley attitudes towards supervisory policies.

Facebook” by chriscorneschi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Furthermore, the ideas of libertarianism are used by high-tech companies to justify their actions. For example, the European Commission decided to impose Alphabete with penalties for market abuse of the Android platform, but the technology elite argued that Android is built on open code and welcomes user-led innovation (Jiménez, 2020). However, Jiménez (2020) points out that the most commonly used applications in Android are based on Google proprietary code. This instance exemplifies how the libertarian narrative of Silicon Valley is used by the tech giant to cover up a monopolistic reality. In addition, the encouragement of user-led innovation in the name of libertarianism can implicitly lead to the benefits of free labour for Google. Therefore, the idea of libertarianism shapes the culture of Silicon Valley by offering high-tech firms a shield from criticism.

The economic idea of achieving rapid economic growth

The high-velocity labour market in Silicon Valley is created with the objective of benefiting both employers and employees. The analysis reveals that employers in Silicon Valley prefer to offer employees short contracts because they can obtain the information transmitted from other companies (Hyde, 2015). The technical information gained from employees is advantageous for the prosperity of the firm and technological developments at lower costs, which can accelerate economic growth. A market for information that corresponds with the concept of an information economy is therefore generated (Hyde, 2015). Meanwhile, employees are willing to accept short job tenures with considerable compensation from firms (Hyde, 2015). Nevertheless, the reason why or when a firm rationally allows mobile employees to diffuse its technology requires further examination. Hence, the idea of pursuing economic growth shapes the culture of Silicon Valley and results in a flexible labour market.


In summary, the ideas of hegemonic masculinity, libertarian political ideology, and achieving rapid economic growth, respectively, contribute to a mix of work and home, a male-dominated tech industry, an anti-regulatory stance, and a flexible labour market in the culture of Silicon Valley. However, it is clear that the Silicon Valley ideologies are based on the technology company’s own interests by analysing the ideas that shape the culture of Silicon Valley, which can raise social issues. A gender-biased work environment, work-life imbalance, and a demoted public interest are the following social issues that have emerged in Silicon Valley.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Reference List


Cooper, M. (2000). Being the “go-to guy”: Fatherhood, masculinity, and the organization of work in silicon valley. Qualitative      Sociology, 23(4), 379-405. doi:https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005522707921


Hyde, A. (2015). A new economic analysis of trade secrets law from an economics of information perspective. In Working in Silicon Valley: Economic and Legal Analysis of a High-velocity Labor Market (pp. 63–92). Routledge. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315698052-11


Jiménez, A. (2020). The Silicon Doctrine. TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 18(1), 322–336. https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v18i1.1147


Lusoli, A., & Turner, F. (2020). “It’s an ongoing bromance”: Counterculture and cyberculture in Silicon Valley—an interview with Fred Turner. Journal of Management Inquiry, 30(2), 235–242. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492620941075


Perrin, A. J. (2002). Making Silicon Valley : Culture, representation, and technology at the Tech Museum. The Communication Review, 5(2), 91–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/10714420212479