Platform Cooperativism Resource Library


The Internet of Landlords Makes Renters of Us All

Breaking the platform economy’s cycle of extraction and enclosure can redistribute power over data and infrastructure to the public.

Future historians will mark 2020 as the year when, in the midst of a world historic crisis, it became viscerally apparent that we’re divided into two economies. For the majority of people struggling to make ends meet — with few options but to resort to working in dangerous conditions at warehouses or tethering themselves to servant apps run byexploitative platforms, all while avoiding imminent threats of infection and eviction — it was the worst of times. For a small class of wealthy executives — those who own these companies, control access to essential services, and innovate new ways to extract value — it was a record-breaking year.

Throwing this distinction into sharp relief, tech critic Paris Marx pointed outthat billionaires added $3.9 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic while workers globally lost $3.7 trillion in earnings. It’s no accident that the biggest winners of the coronavirus crisis are the same tech and finance executives who have been aggressively consuming the world for more than a decade. This massive redistribution of wealth, from labor to capital, should be seen as a direct outcome of digital platforms reaching new levels of dominance as their owners strive to amass profit and consolidate power.

For example, despite increased scrutiny on the inhumane costs of Amazon’s massive logistics and surveillance infrastructure, “the company as a whole posted record quarterly revenues of $125.6bn, up more than 40 per cent in the same period in the previous year, and comfortably beating Wall Street’s expectations,” reports Financial Times. Meanwhile, gig platforms like Uber and DoorDash scored a major legislative win last November with the passage of Proposition 22 in California, which exempts them from classifying their workers as employees. By enshrining into law a new form of serfdom-as-a-service, these platforms hope to finally turn a profit off of their precarious workforce.
Added May 21, 2021