James Muldoon has written a book, Platform Socialism: How to Reclaim our Digital Futures, reviewed here, and was invited by the “Different Class” programme to join a seminar discussing it. When I first heard of the book, and read reviews I wasn’t impressed. A lot of what he said has been said before however on meeting him I think he has a great control over his material and can present it powerfully. I think he’s stronger on criticising the datenkraken than he is on suggesting alternative governance models and how to get there. He is keener on co-ops than nationalised corporations and we can understand why. I think that somewhere in here, there is a need to change company law such that the primacy of shareholder value is undermined. Theoreticians have argued for decades that companies serve at least four stakeholders; why should the needs of one have supremacy over the other three. Capitalism and shareholder value/fiduciary duty may have been appropriate when capital was scarce and the key economic question was how to use it but the world has moved on.

Certainly, I can see no justification for Uber appropriating the value from its drivers; it should be a co-op of the drivers. In fact, this is an argument that’s been going on for a while. An example is in the music business; there are arguments about how much value should accrue to the fans versus the artists versus the financiers.

Here are my notes and links …’

  1. jamesmuldoon.org, his web site
  2. Platform Socialism: How to Reclaim our Digital Future from Big Tech, the book, at Jstor.
  3. Feeding the machine: the hidden human labour powering AI, his next book, “Big Tech has sold us the illusion that artificial intelligence is a frictionless technology that will bring wealth and prosperity to humanity.”
  4. E11 James Muldoon on Platform Socialism, at Future Histories International, a 1:40 podcast by James on the book
  5. Professor Jonathan White of LSE, chaired the seminar
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/24/yanis-varoufakis-technofeudalism-capitalism-ukraine-interview
  7. What Do Platforms Do? Understanding the Gig Economy by Steven Vallas, and Juliet B. Schor Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 46:273-294 (Volume publication date July 2020)
  8. Are We All Amazon Primed? Consumers and the Politics of Platform Power, Culpepper, P. D., & Thelen, K. (2020). Comparative Political Studies, 53(2), 288-318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414019852687
  9. https://arenguseire.ee/en/reports/the-future-of-the-data-society-scenarios-up-to-2035/
  10. https://prospect.org/culture/books/2024-01-16-uber-impoverished-public-expectations-review/
  11. https://wisconsindot.gov/pages/travel/road/rideshare/default.aspx

There are others thinking about this;

Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor of Culture and Media at the New School, NYC, His book Uber-Worked and Underpaid. How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy (Polity, 2016) develops an analysis of the challenges posed by digital labor and introduces the concept of platform cooperativism as a way of joining the peer-to-peer and co-op movements with online labor markets while insisting on communal ownership and democratic governance. He also wrote and published “Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy”. Rosa Luxemburg Siftung (.pdf) which is free and a medium article, his only posting there. He references, among other papers and campaigns,

  1. https://p2pfoundation.net/
  2. An extract from Wealth_of Networks, Benkler 2006 YUP

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