Professor of sociology, economist and writer Juliet Schor ’75 explores the ramifications of the shift from employment to livelihood, in this discussion on “makerspaces” and the sharing economy. Complete strangers come together to “reallocate value along the production chain,” and thus reduce the carbon footprint of production.
As jobs disappear, people have begun to carve out new ways to gain access to income, goods and services. This is evident not only in the “makerspaces,” but also in what has come to be called the “sharing economy,” which encompasses activities as diverse as car-pooling, ride-sharing, opening one’s home to strangers via Web-based services like Couchsurfing or Airbnb, sharing office space and working in community gardens and food co-ops.
Like “makerspaces,” the sharing economy is refashioning work, giving people new opportunities to earn money or to have access to goods and services. People are joining “time banks,” through which members trade services like baby-sitting, carpentry or tutoring. They are selling their labor for cash on platforms like Task Rabbit and Zaarly. They are renting out their cars, homes and durable goods, from appliances to lawn mowers. They are also giving away their stuff, via Web sites like Yerdle and Freecycle, rather than throwing it away.
The potential for the sharing economy to give work more meaning, autonomy and social impact is considerable. It has begun to reallocate value along the production chain, by cutting out middlemen, like hoteliers and landlords. What’s revolutionary is not the sharing — people have engaged in nonmonetary transactions for millenniums — but that the transactions are occurring among strangers.
Image: by Gary Gilbert
Share this link: wesconnect.wesleyan.edu/news-20131021-juliet-schor
- Schor ’75 to present at the New Economy Summit
- Juliet Schor ’75: Treading lightly on the Earth
- Economist Schor ’75: hire new grads at 80% schedule
- Juliet Schor writes about a cure for consumption
- Juliet Schor’s website