Against the ‘sharing economy’?

The notion of the “sharing economy” is entering popular circulation in a way that would have seemed extremely unlikely only a year or two ago. Yet what is it? Is this really ‘sharing’? Is this capitalism creating the basis for its own transcendence? Or is it a particularly noxious form of neo-capitalism that affects quasi-socialism while aggressively deconstructing secure and regulated industries? This podcast won’t answer these questions but it might help us¬†understand their significance with a greater degree of clarity – LISTEN HERE

More and more, consumers are turning to Uber to hail rides with their smartphones, or renting spare rooms from strangers online through Airbnb. These companies typify the sharing economy where everyone can be a micro-entrepreneur and provide valued services without a professional middleman. But as these peer-to-peer businesses explode in popularity, cities are dealing with major questions over how to regulate them. Following a wave of recent protests by taxi drivers across the U.S. and Europe, the debate over these services is heating up. Diane and her guests have a conversation about regulating the sharing economy, and what it means for businesses and consumers.


Dean Baker

co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research and blogger, Beat the Press; author of “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.”

Emily Badger

staff writer at The Washington Post covering urban policy.

Arun Sundararajan

Professor of information, operations and management sciences, NYU Stern School of Business

Categories: Rethinking The World

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2 replies »

  1. This is a very interesting question you pose and one which I am currently fascinated by, for it speaks to the paradoxical nature of the times in which we live. Their ‘double-swordedness’. Something that starts out as an experimental, even neutral idea, (although encouragingly many new ideas and start-ups are motivated by a social good to at least some extent), threatens to be usurped by dominant agendas. The question, I think, that needs to be analyzed is: who is doing the sharing (and why) and who is doing the taking (and why)? The answer seems to often be that those who are sharing are those who want to initiate change in the status quo and disrupt otherwise harmful hegemonies (although not always and completely – one must make a living after all), while those doing the taking are both those who benefit from its original intentions and those who it threatens (by copying or subverting). Of course, then the even bigger question is who (or what) is controlling the sharing economy itself – that is, the communication channels and infrastructure, policies, etc? As so much of what the internet and the sharing economy offers us is easily corrupted, the final questions that then need to be answered are what has the internet and increased accessibility to services really done on a societal level in terms of equality and social benefits and where to from here? What other means of social exchange are on the horizon, since the very ubiquity of the internet increasingly seems to be a threat to itself and its potential for fundamental change. The deep web, of what little I know about it, is interesting in this regard, for it seems that we cannot, and I don’t think should necessarily look to, escape the medium of technology in its entirety.

    • I agree! It’s that ‘double-swordedness’ which makes it so interesting – I flip between extreme cynicism and benign interest without being able to reconcile the two views of the ‘sharing economy’

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