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Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5357-0
242 pages
December 2016, Polity
Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy (074565357X) cover image

Description

This book is about the rise of digital labor. Companies like Uber and Amazon Mechanical Turk promise autonomy, choice, and flexibility. One of network culture's toughest critics, Trebor Scholz chronicles the work of workers in the "sharing economy," and the free labor on sites like Facebook, to take these myths apart.

In this rich, accessible, and provocative book, Scholz exposes the uncaring reality of contingent digital work, which is thriving at the expense of employment and worker rights.

The book is meant to inspire readers to join the growing number of worker-owned "platform cooperatives," rethink unions, and build a better future of work. A call to action, loud and clear, Uberworked and Underpaid shows that it is time to stop wage theft and "crowd fleecing," rethink wealth distribution, and address the urgent question of how digital labor should be regulated and how workers from Berlin, Barcelona, Seattle, and São Paulo can act in solidarity to defend their rights.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Why Digital Labor Now?

Chapter 1: Black Box Labor and the Creative Wrecking of Employment

Chapter 2: Play at Work

Chapter 3: Defining Digital Labor

Chapter 4: Crowd Fleecing

Chapter 5: On Motivations

Conclusion

i. Confronting the Legal Gray Zones of Digital Labor

ii. On Tactical Refusal, Defection, and Withdrawal from Data Labor

iii. Think Outside the Boss: Platform Cooperativism for the Sharing Economy

Epilogue

Notes

Index

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Author Information

Trebor Scholz is Associate Professor of Culture and Media at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. He chairs the conference series The Politics of Digital Culture at The New School.
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Reviews

Bringing together the rich and long tradition of cooperativism and worker self-management with the digital economy of the 21st century, Scholz' timely and groundbreaking new book provides both in-depth analysis and practical steps to make the Internet economy truly work for all who most rely on it.
Zeynep Tufekci, writer at The New York Times, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, professor The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Trebor Scholz has written a unsparing and bracing critique of platform capitalism. Moreover, he's developed a blueprint for transcending it: a tough-minded platform cooperativism that eschews the utopianism of sharing economy bromides. Anyone concerned about the future of work should read this book.
Frank Pasquale, author of The Black Box Society

Based on years of research and cooperation, Uberworked and Underpaid passionately and sharply tracks down the dark side of the sharing economy, that is the reduction of labor to a cheap and disposable commodity, without protections or benefits. Against such hyper-precarization, Scholz believes in the possibility of autonomous self-organization of digital work. Posing platform cooperativism against crowd fleecing and the on-demand service economy, Scholz's book is an invaluable contribution to a much needed reinvention of a socialism for the 21st century.
Tiziana Terranova, author of Network Culture. Politics for the Information Age

Scholz authoritatively and convincingly outlines how the sharing economy is set up to disempower workers in every segment of the economy; in every corner of the world. But this hopeful book shows us that our current path is far from inevitable. Platform cooperativism is about envisioning an alternative, and Scholz offers us a powerful roadmap to get us there.
Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Uberworked is not only a mesmerizing reveal of the Dickensian state of digital labor, but offers a visionary and human alternative: the platform cooperative. Scholz, a scholar-activist at the forefront of a movement to transform technologies of domination into tools of social justice, has produced its essential manifesto.
Juliet Schor, author of The Overworked American

"A valuable, accessible analysis."
Times Higher Education
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