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The sharing economy: should we believe the hype?

6:45pm, Tuesday 8 September 2015, Art Workers' Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT

The ‘sharing economy’ is a description for an amorphous and wide-ranging set of businesses and practices across the world. The most notable examples are room-booking site AirBnB and taxi services like Uber and Lyft, all of which have attracted significant criticism but also inspired much talk of a new kind of economy - with stockmarket valuations to match. But the sharing economy also covers a variety of forms of ‘collaborative consumption’, allowing people to lend out their possessions in exchange for cash or non-financial rewards.

Some go further in their enthusiasm for the sharing economy, seeing within it the seeds of a post-capitalist economy. Economics author and journalist Paul Mason sees possibilities within the sharing economy for an ‘escape route’ from capitalism, based in part on his experiences of how Greeks are coping with an economy in freefall. But does the sharing economy really live up to the hype?

Questions to consider

1.    What is the sharing economy? Does it make sense as a concept?

2.    To what extent does the sharing economy represent something new?

3.    Given how big companies have arisen from the sharing economy, is there any prospect for small-scale ‘collaborative consumption’ becoming a significant aspect of the economy?

4.    Is the success of Uber and other service-related companies simply an exploitative form of piecework?

5.    Given the efforts to shut down Uber and AirBnB in different jurisdictions, will the sharing economy survive the modern tendency towards regulation?


Rob Killick, CEO, Clerkswell

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