On why Uber has not taken over the world

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Economy and Society, 2019, 48 (4), pp. 488 - 509
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Today it is common to see news headlines decrying the wildfire spread of the ‘gig economy’. We ask the exact opposite question: why aren’t more jobs now conducted via labour-based digital platforms, the primary method used in the gig economy? Surveys in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere indicate that gig work remains a very minor component of the labour market, and certainly isn’t overshadowing either regular employment or the contingent workforce (e.g. on-demand, part-time, contract, seasonal). The size of the gig economy is probably exaggerated because it is conflated with casual work per se (which has indeed grown) and non-labour platforms. Our paper argues that a central reason why labour-based digital platforms produce so few jobs is because it is inspired by a purist version of neoliberal capitalism, reductio ad absurdum, including strict market individualism and anti-unionism. This renders the gig economy unsustainable on its own terms, revealing its basic internal limits. The gig economy is a potent and dangerous pro-market fantasy, yet one whose imagined perfection is unsuitable to the realities of work on a large scale, hence why it has not proliferated more widely, thriving on the fringes instead.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: