“I never planned to be a politician. Never. Not in my wildest nightmares,” the economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said the other day. He was fighting his way toward the exit at Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall, where he’d just spoken at a conference on sustainable development. A man blocked his path: “Five minutes, Professor?” He introduced himself as a U.N. employee. “I’m Italian,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect,” Varoufakis said, laughing. “I’m Greek.”

Varoufakis, who is tall and bald, with a rakish demeanor, wore boots and a black trenchcoat, like a character from “The Matrix.” In 2015, amid one of the worst financial crises in Greece’s history, he was appointed by the country’s new left-wing government to try to save the financial system and to fend off punishing austerity measures that the country’s creditors had proposed in exchange for a bailout. (During the negotiations, the Financial Times called him “the most irritating man in the room.”) The press referred to Varoufakis as the “rock-star finance minister” and noted his leather jackets and glamorous artist wife, Danae Stratou. “So what that I have a motorcycle,” he said. “I live in Athens—there’s no way you can get around in a car.”

Varoufakis is still bitter about the way his tenure ended, six months in. He was criticized for appearing in a flashy Paris Match spread at a time when Greeks were suffering economically, and, shortly before the country’s Prime Minister abruptly agreed to the type of bailout that Varoufakis had been resisting, he resigned. (“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride,” he wrote on his blog.)

“I wanted to do one thing,” he said, hailing a cab to take him to the Guggenheim Museum, a regular New York stop. “Restructure Greece’s debt. If you’re bankrupt, and your bankruptcy gets bigger by getting more credit cards, this is a cycle. I wanted to break this doom loop. And I failed.” He added, “I don’t regret it for a second. But politics stinks.”

Varoufakis just published his seventeenth book, called “Technofeudalism.” Capitalism, he argues, has been replaced by a new economic system that’s more dangerous than anything Marx could have conjured. The big tech companies—Meta, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet—control our attention and mediate our transactions, he says, turning humans into digital serfs incessantly posting, scrolling, and buying on their platforms. Rather than chasing profits that derive from labor, the tech overlords, whom he calls “cloudalists,” extract “rents.”

In the book, Varoufakis refers to Homer, Hesiod, “Mad Men,” F.D.R., Batman, and Thomas Edison to illustrate what has happened since people started staring at smartphones for most of their waking hours. Under feudalism, a landowner would grant fiefs to vassals, who would farm the land and give a portion of the yield to the landowner. Varoufakis writes that Jeff Bezos’s “relationship with the vendors on amazon.com is not too dissimilar.” But the new setup is a bigger threat to representative government than even the old capitalism was.

The cab pulled up to the Guggenheim. As Varoufakis paid the fare, he explained that although he’s a critic of technology, he still uses it, especially X. “I’m all day on Twitter,” he said. “I hate it. Was it Stephen Fry, the English writer and actor, who said that it’s like taking all the graffiti from male toilets and posting it online?”

Varoufakis hadn’t checked the museum’s exhibition schedule but said that he liked surprises. A show called “Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility” featured images of people wearing hoodies and shrouds, and eerie sculptures of staggering giants bathed in green light. As he peered at the shadowy figures, he said that the only thing that could counter the new tech feudalism was a revolution in which citizens took control of the algorithms and put them under democratic oversight. “A tall order,” he admits in the book.

He stared at a large Chris Ofili painting that was almost entirely blue. “When I get seriously depressed, it’s art, music, and ‘Star Trek,’ ” he said. “I’m a Trekkie, by the way. Absolutely fanatical. I’ve seen every single one.” He especially loves “The Next Generation,” in which Patrick Stewart plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard. “The major reason why I like it is because it’s a post-capitalist, socialist world,” he said. “There’s no money. There’s no profit. And there is the primary directive: We do not interfere with other races. Which is exactly the opposite of the imperialist directive.”

He recalled a favorite episode, in which the Enterprise crew thaws several people who were cryogenically frozen: “There is a fantastic dialogue between Captain Picard and a businessman from the nineteen-nineties who demands to see his lawyer because he had a lot of investments on Wall Street. And Picard says, ‘My friend, these were all illusions which are no longer current. We have overcome the need for material possessions.’ ”

The ideal system, Varoufakis went on, might be called “anti-technofeudalism.” “With technology working for all of us in a perfectly democratic way, and the removal of systematic exploitation on the basis of who owns what—that’s ‘Star Trek,’ ” he said. “Whereas I hate ‘Star Wars.’ ‘Star Wars’ is the Middle Ages, with laser guns.” ♦