Watch out sharing economy, the feds are watching this whole contractor thing | Ars Technica

via Watch out sharing economy, the feds are watching this whole contractor thing | Ars Technica.

I confess to disliking much about Uber but also liking a lot about Airbnb; and I’ve even used the latter. But they are also different things. Uber, and its ilk–and these have little to do with “sharing”–exploit individuals by encouraging ruthless community self-destruction. Airbnb introduces levels of risk that can be tolerated by those able to leverage their privilege, such as tourists, and also, now, academic researchers. Tax loss is an issue that is not insignificant, but can be dealt with, I’d imagine. For now, however, the issue of labour rights is of paramount importance: we know that individual workers, working without the resources (social, economic) nearly all capitalists can claim, are intensely vulnerable to the vagaries of the market and whims of fashion–far, far more than consolidated, community strengthened labour.

And that consolidated labour–unionised or shaped by unionisation–also works better, as it does not have the sword of Damocles hanging over its individuals’ heads but rather can focus attention on the job at hand, not the job to come. This distinction is as true in open source as anywhere else. The contributor who loves working on her own time, may do wonderful work–but unless she has a source of income affording her her community contributions (and that could include income derived from her community work), her future work is always a little uncertain.

Open source has finessed a lot of this uncertainty by a structures and relays that make it easier to include new contributors. But however well-designed the structure of collaboration and education, it’s not likely to be perfect, if only because everyone works slightly differently, using different styles and at different rates. For many large projects, in fact, the core group of developers is made up of employees to stakeholder companies or company.

This assures a degree of future stability, though of course, in any market society, especially one increasingly neoliberal (which privileges the individual entrepreneur), there is always the vertigo of uncertainty.

[Note, as I finished the above, I reviewed a lecture given to the LSE by the French critic Michel Feher on the neoliberal condition. It’s a remarkably lucid and clear analysis of, among other things, the transformation to freelancing that neoliberalism has made on US and UK (and more) society. See]