If Uber Were a Cooperative: A Democratically Biased Analysis of Platform Economy
Online, or platform economy, is no different than offline economy. Platforms are in this day and age what land was in agrarian times and the means of production for the industrial revolution period — i.e., basic resources. As such, the prime questions to be addressed are the same as ever: who owns the resources, who controls them, who profits from them, and who makes the decisions regarding all of the above.
Analyzing online economy by these parameters elicits three major categories: Online Capitalism — economic activities designed to maximize profits; Sharing Economy, using a substance-based definition — allowing underused resources to be used by others and adding social value: connecting people, contributing to the environment, and creating communities; and Platform Cooperativism — using online technology to promote economic and social goals and interests, as in the sharing notion, adding power-building components: ownership, control – democracy.
This classification is both an identifying tool that allows for an objective evaluation of enterprises and a basis for future legislation and public policy that favors democratic and community-based enterprises.
Platform Economy poses great threats: It allows for concentration of power, wealth and control, but it also holds great opportunities as it constructs mechanisms that enable mass participation in decision-making, and thus allows to develop a new and exciting future in which democracy re-claims its front seat, and people regain the power to make a difference.