Since the 2013 cover of The Economist, the hype around “the rise of the sharing economy” has been significant. It has provoked excitement for a new economy based on horizontal collaboration and supported by digital technologies. But it has also generated criticism concerning its implications for society. This is fuelling a debate on the relationship between entrepreneurship and innovation, the re-embeddedness of the economy in society, conceptions of reciprocity, and the apparent failure of communitarian models in favour of extractive models.
The academic discussion on this topic has drawn from sociological classics such as Marx and Weber, to question whether this is a market or gift economy and to investigate the changing notions social capital and trust. Today, the debate seems to have shifted more clearly towards the critical side, denouncing the forms of exploitation of platform workers and proclaiming the failure of the collaborative forms of sharing initially advocated as unilaterally positive. Moreover, the analysis of local forms of collaborative economy as well as of the impact of global platforms upon local economies has been infrequent.
Existing research suggests the resourcefulness of the traditional capitalist model in assimilating codes and strategies of the "antagonistic" models of sharing, through the construction of organizational hybrids. On the other hand, there is a lack of studies looking into the concrete impacts of the sharing economy at the various levels it intervenes, and the more innovative and disruptive local cases, sometimes unsuccessful, are rarely discussed.
This special section of The Sociological Review’s website seeks short blog posts reflecting on the challenges of studying the sharing economy from a sociological perspective. These might include topics such as the following:
- What is the role of sociology is studying the sharing economy and its implications?
- What are the challenges involved in using a micro or macro analytical perspective for the study of sharing practices? How could we integrate these perspectives in a way that fruitfully marries?
- Which are the most insightful methodological approaches for the understanding of the ‘sharing economy’ and its impact? Can digital methods be a useful resource to this end?
- What kind of indicators are better suited to evaluate the ‘sharing economy’ impact?
- Despite the hype of these years, is the attention to the ‘sharing economy’ declining? Are we getting used to ‘sharing’ without critique? Towards which directions/developments is the academic debate on the platform economy moving?
- What is the relationship between academics and activists in this area and what challenges does it pose?
- What is the relationship between a sociological approach to studying sharing practices, and other disciplines?
- Can we refer to a “public sociology” with respect to the sharing/platform economy?
Please contact Mark Carrigan with submissions or any questions relating to the special section: email@example.com.