“The ‘sharing economy’ simply dresses up our consumerist tendencies in a more palatable ideology”
Ride sharing has changed how we move. Food delivery apps have changed our eating habits. Airbnb has changed how we holiday. Dating apps have changed how we meet our partners. And some of these apps may have influenced how we work, and whether or not we can pay our rent.
This shift to peer‑to‑peer transactions is often portrayed as an antidote to the consumer culture of modern society because it supports sharing instead of ownership. But have sharing platforms simply created a new form of capitalism? [...]
The number of people quitting their full‑time jobs to become entrepreneurs of the sharing economy has increased. Data from across 36 countries show 43% of millennials and 61% of Gen Z envision leaving their jobs within two years. Among millennials who would quit their jobs, 62% regard the gig economy as a viable alternative. [...]
And it’s hard for entrepreneurs to avoid using these kinds of services if they want their offering to be competitive among many other alternatives. Studies show non‑professional hosts face operational inefficiencies, such as lower occupancies and pricing, compared to their professional counterparts. [...]
The sharing economy is often romanticised as a shift away from the evils of capitalism to a more communal and socially conscious way of life.
Some studies do suggest micro‑entrepreneurs and customers do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation when deciding how, and with who, they will “share” resources.
But if that’s true, then why do people from minority groups earn less on sharing platforms? And why are platforms focusing on niche markets – such as noirbnb.com for people of colour and misterbandb.com for gay travellers – thriving?
If the sharing economy is supposed to increase environmental sustainability by reducing the ownership and production of bicycles and cars, how do we account for the waste visible in China’s “bike share graveyards”? [...]
People who participate in the sharing economy are primarily motivated by financial rewards. Service providers use the income from “sharing” their assets to purchase larger houses or better cars, while customers seek cheaper deals than traditional providers can offer.
The sharing economy enables people to consume during the economic crisis, satisfying materialist needs, values, priorities and lifestyles in different ways – through “sharing” and “access”, rather than “ownership”.
People see the practice of sharing resources as a way to achieve self‑image, self‑promotion, social appreciation and recognition. [...]
The sharing economy has not changed people’s mindsets, values, lifestyles or behaviours. People still wish to consume at the same levels and they do consume for the same reasons, but in a different way. The sharing economy disrupts the traditional economy, but it has not transformed it.
“The ‘sharing economy’ simply dresses up our consumerist tendencies in a more palatable ideology”, Marianna Sigala, TheConversation.com, 2019.