Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy
Among all the problems with 21st-century work — the ballooning of the low wage service sector, economic inequality, the crumbling of worker rights — the main problem really is that there are so few realistic alternatives. What has been missing from the debate about the future of work is an approach that offers people something that they can wholeheartedly embrace. This is what this essay is about.
First, I will reflect on the opportunities, pitfalls, and consequences of the sharing economy. I am using the case of Amazon.com, which has firmly entered the “sharing economy.” Second, I will describe the rise of platform cooperativism and offer examples of really existing as well as imaginary platform co-ops. What I call platform cooperativism is about democratic ownership models for the Internet. Third, I’ll outline ten principles for labor platforms that are bringing fairness to work on labor platforms. I will conclude with reflections about possible next steps for this movement in the making.
The Consequences of the Sharing Economy. They called it the gig economy, the peer economy, the sharing economy. It took a while to acknowledge that the sharing economy was really an on-demand service economy that set out to monetize services that were previously private. It is true that there are undeniable opportunities for students, educated workers between jobs, and everyone who owns a second home. Now, it’s easier for college graduates to land a gig assembling furniture or renovating someone’s house. Consumers, raised with a keen appreciation of low prices and uber-convenience above all else, welcome these upstarts. But should we understand the sharing economy as a road sign pointing to a better, more flexible future of work? What has this economy really brought us?