Four years ago this week saw the Occupy Wall Street movement gain credible motion through out the western world. Cries of “enough” to the bankers and politicians about the burden of loans, debt and the subsequent bailouts were heard in over 950 cities and in 82 countries by student activists and those who stated they represented the 99% - aka “the rest of us”.
The Occupy movement had both its supporters and detractors, and several years later it is hard to unravel anything tangible or distinct that actually resulted from the movement, other than they were the largest protests ever held up until that time. Some “Occupiers” will claim that the increase in minimum wages now seen in several US states to $15.00 dollars per hour are a direct result of the Occupy Movement. Others say nothing much at all came of the protests – including Occupy’s founder, Micah White, who now states that we are in the era he calls “The End of Protest” which you can read all about in his new book.
We may be at the end of protests, but with massive globalization possible with just a few strokes on our device, we do seem to be on the brink of another revolution. This one has created the micro gig or sharing economy, which also has its supporters and detractors, some of whom say it is just another form of capitalism. The dispute seems to be that there is a huge difference in micro-entrepreneurship and true “sharing” based concepts. Think business to business vs. business to peer, vs. peer to peer.
Is the micro gig phenomenon going to be the economic revolution that will change the world that some say it is? Look online and already some say it has changed their life. And of course, for every success story such as the one below “The Sharing economy bought me a flat”, there are an equal number of “Airbnb got me Evicted” stories. It always pays to know the rules. …Just saying.
Perhaps the Sharing economy detractors are right in that it presents a new way for companies to put social and capital costs onto consumers and the contractors directly, and some courts are agreeing. In California “Uber” recently had a court declare that their “contracted drivers” are in fact employees. Whoops. There will of course be an appeal states Uber, which only shows that it is always a good time to be a lawyer.
How then can social organizations utilize these new technologies to benefit the people they support without becoming micro capitalists or exploiting others? By harnessing the power of the revolution! As Juliet Schor states in her excellent article “Debating the Sharing Economy”. “The sharing economy has been propelled by exciting new technologies. The ease with which individuals, even strangers, can now connect, exchange, share information, and cooperate is truly transformative. That’s the promise of the sharing platforms about which virtually everyone agrees. But technologies are only as good as the political and social context in which they are employed. Software, crowdsourcing, and the information commons give us powerful tools for building social solidarity, democracy, and sustainability. Now our task is to build a movement to harness that power.” Read the whole article here.
There is of course an enormous amount of power in any revolution. As Marie Antoinette or any former Occupier could tell you… let’s hope this latest one truly flows equitably for not just the 99% of us but for 100% of us.