From Sharing to Cooperation: Lessons from Mondragón in the “New Economy”

As you may know, the phrase “the new economy” emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s and it is by no means “new” at this point, but rather points us toward an economy that has decidedly moved from Fordist arrangements of labor and production to what has been referred to as “post-Fordist”, relying on “flexible” or causalized labor and “just in time” production. Within that larger framework of a “new” economy, we have witnessed the rise of what is more specifically called “the sharing economy” and, in this paper, I sketch the terrain of labor, technology, data, and value that this phrase has come to indicate. I do this, however, because I am interested in interrogating the social figure– the private, entrepreneurial individual –that sits at the heart of this emerging economy. I do this because I want to argue that the “sharing economy”, while seemingly rapidly multiplying and spreading across several realms of social life, is an unsustainable and exploitative labor arrangement that privileges the short-term interests of individuals, while simultaneously opening the individual and environments and objects (such as homes) to data extraction and surveillance.

As we will see as I outline this terrain, many seem resigned to this fate of “dataveillance”, while others speak of it as a new, transformative mode (often through the language of disruption and innovation) of social and economic relations that will fundamentally alter how we live. That transformative vision carries with it several social problematics, which I will address. It is, then, within this larger critique that I am making of the sharing economy that I turn to Mondragón to ask about sustainable forms of “sharing.” I turn to Mondragón here to ask the question: How might we move from an extractive “sharing” economy to a form of economy that is truly capable of sustaining communities?

Read the full article at the CUNY Digital Labor Working Group


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