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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Sociol. | doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2020.00049

Individualism and collectivism at work in an era of deindustrialisation: work narratives of food delivery couriers in the platform economy Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

  • 1Grenoble École de Management, France

Supposedly emblematic of digital capitalism, the rise of the gig economy is frequently taken as a cypher for the developing deindustrialisation of western societies. It is tempting to interpret the shift of manufacturing jobs to the global south and their replacement with service sector jobs as a one-way street, leading to the demise of decent work and the rise of work characterised by precarity, low pay, low skill and a non-unionised workforce. However, the reality is inevitably more complex. In the first place, pessimism may be attributed to a rose-tinted view of the experience of former industrial employment in the global north resulting from a questionable assumption about the nature of the jobs that occupied most people in former industrial societies. Certainly, deindustrialisation is not leading to ‘de-working’, that is, working less for the same money. . Our evidence derives from qualitative interviews with gig workers in the food delivery sector in a number of European countries. We highlight the extent to which couriers profess a variety of understandings of the character of platform economy labour processes. A range of narratives emerge including platform work as leisure, as economic opportunity, and as collectivist labour. Moreover, individuation, attendant upon the character of the physical labour process, did not lead in any straightforward way to individualism in social labour processes – contrary to our expectations, we in fact witnessed forms of collectivism. Counterintuitively we found that these forms of collectivism were driven by the nature of the work itself. Given platform apps’ external control, the gig economy spatially separates workers while at the same time requiring cognition of colleagues’ collective work and labour process. Notwithstanding structural processes separating workers-in-work, platforms also witness the instantiation of forms of collectivism. Deindustrialisation is neither the end to collectivism nor trade unionism. Rather than post-work, then, we explore the problematics of plus work and variant collectivisms.

Keywords: Platform economy, digital capitalism, Deindustrialisation, gig workers, Recomposition

Received: 12 Jan 2020; Accepted: 05 Jun 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 STEWART, SHANAHAN and SMITH. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Robert P. STEWART, Grenoble École de Management, Grenoble, France,