Reduced capitalism, cheap services, workplace flexibility, resource efficiency, social engagement; the sharing economy was portrayed to be as utopian as its name might suggest. Shortly after its introduction, successful start-ups such as Uber and Airbnb convinced us that this innovative business-model could truly offer benefits to everyone. However recent evaluations, like described in ‘Platform Cooperativism’ by Trebor Scholz, exhibit this idealistic model to be a capitalist illusion rather than a charitable truth.
It has only been 2 years since its innovative potential has been exposed, yet the disadvantages of the sharing economy have already become painfully clear. The benefits that were presented during its introduction are not spurious, but they seem to take the perspective of users and a minor elite, while withholding the perspective of workers. Their side often showcases negative results such as lacking dignity, payments below minimum wages and sharply decreased protection. Therefore, Scholz states that the efficiency provided by the sharing economy loses its valuable potential because of its structure, which is reformed and owned by capitalist powers.
So should we truly consider this new ‘peer economy’ disastrous like described in many recent articles or should we perceive it as something just failed matching insanely high expectations? I would consider the last answer most legitimate. The sharing economy clearly exposes the ability of positive, beneficial forms of communication to repeatedly shape idealistic thus aerial thoughts and expectations. Therefore, the most remarkable aspect of this event might actually be that we consistently end up feeling like a gullible victim; suffering from misplaced faith.
Which makes this case a perfect example of the persuasive strength of ideals. The strategy behind it seems to be quite simple. First confront your audiences with a dystopian enemy; in this case capitalist control. Then afterwards expose your own utopian solution to this enemy; the sharing economy. Even though this ‘rise of the losers‘ strategy seems far from rocket science, the outcomes of these kind of techniques prove to have disturbing power; capable of generating and controlling societies. Which is why it is repetitively used by marketeers and powerful leaders such as Donald Trump:
In my opinion, this comparison to Trump showcases a reliable argument that consumers should critically reconsider the choices they make, in stead of blindly following persuasive forms of communication. Consumers can mostly be considered naive and passive in stead of comprehensive and controlling when it comes to the future consequences of their behaviour. While the money we spend and our co-operations are the biggest possible influence we could have on any company, since this is what they pursuit. Which makes everything we do, every product or service we buy, an actual vote, empowering us to shape our environment as a democracy.
If consumers would truly pursuit this state of mind; if they finally start to understand the sociology and anthropology of what we are doing, then we might collectively achieve the ideal promises that were once made by the sharing economy. Yet maybe this vision just makes me another faithful consumer, driven by ideals.