Updated: Feb 11, 2022
In Distinktion, Journal of Social Theory, in November I finally published "Radical Flexibility: driving for Lyft and the future of work in the platform economy." (or PDF here)
Thanks to the anonymous reviewers who I think were somewhat rightly grouchy about the original length of this piece but who unquestionably helped me tighten it up.
Labour conditions in the first two decades of the twenty-first century in the US have become increasingly precarious and abusive. At the same time, many workers and users (no longer easily categorically separated) exhibit a sustained attachment to the idea of flexible work. For workers, internalizing the demand to be flexible as an affirmative choice can be a method of survival. But the demand for flexibility is also connected to an affective sense of agency and a refusal of alienation. For workers, flexibility connects strong convenience with access to fast cash. It connects a sense of play and creative fun with access to infrastructure and transit. The ‘unicorn’ rideshare company Lyft's brand narrative has capitalized on and exploited the desire for flexibility in historically specific political contexts. In light of these sticky financialized appropriations of flexibility, this essay imagines radical flexibility as a willful re-appropriation. It explores ways that Lyft's rhetoric might be redirected and resisted. In light of existing demands for collective or cooperative platforms, radical flexibility could be a galvanizing justification for a cooperative response to the Uberization of work, part of a broader horizon that reclaims flexibility, play, creativity, and convenience as affects and practices outside of the wage relation.
Stay tuned for an episode of The American Vandal podcast where I discuss all things work and flexibility with Heather Berg, the author of the brilliant book, Porn Work.