At Public Books, Maya Vinokour reviews three recent book about the making of the gig economy and the day-to-day lives of gig workers: Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy by Alexandrea J. Ravenelle, Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary by Louis Hyman, and Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work by Alex Rosenblat. As Vinokour writes, advocates of the gig economy like to claim that it offers an unprecedented level of freedom and “flexibility” for modern workers. But these books show that gig work is not something that people freely choose; it is imposed upon them from above, a phenomenon that Vinokour calls “gig authoritarianism.” Here’s an excerpt from the review:
As intensive lobbying adds entire states to the long list of tech industry “customers,” the vaguely libertarian philosophy underpinning Silicon Valley’s blithe disruption of employment and social life appears to be coalescing into a concrete political program. The end point of the road to tech serfdom is still unclear, but if today’s travails are any indication, it is unlikely to be the freedom-kissed utopia industry leaders routinely promise. What awaits us instead may be a sort of “gig authoritarianism.” Unlike 20th-century cults of personality, this regime will be relatively diffuse, its power distributed across a handful of corporate platforms rather than concentrated in the state. Seen in this light, the apparent fatalism that leads powerful men like Kalanick to cast developments they control as inevitable seems less like a failure of imagination and more like an expression of political intent.
Image via The Guardian.