Monday, October 14, 2013

End of history

Sooner or later we'll wake up to what a tremendous con the "disruptors" are running.  Well... probably later we will. In the meantime, yay unfettered capitalism!
When SF Weekly, a San Francisco newspaper, asked an executive at Uber, an upmarket taxi app, about a protest by Uber drivers concerned by recent firings, he responded that a “driver contracting with Uber is not a bona fide employee” so that “firing, in this case, amounts to deactivating a driver’s account because he’s received low ratings from passengers.” At TaskRabbit, a company that connects those who need their errands run with those who need the money to run them, the “task rabbits” cannot easily communicate with each other. Who knows what trouble they could cause on discovering the subversive Wikipedia page about trade unions?

Or take Airbnb’s resident cosmopolitan, Mr Chesky. Asked how the sharing economy would treat people who “don’t want to be brands”, he did not mince words. “Some people will choose to be anonymous their whole life. That’s OK. But if you don’t opt into this online identity, you’ll have less access to services. The rest of us build a history. We build a brand online.” The power model behind the sharing economy is more Michel Foucault than Joseph Stalin: no one forces you to be part of it – but you may have little choice anyway.

A new UN, indeed: the erosion of full-time employment, the disappearance of healthcare and insurance benefits, the assault on unions and the transformation of workers into always-on self-employed entrepreneurs who must think like brands. The sharing economy amplifies the worst excesses of the dominant economic model: it is neoliberalism on steroids.

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