Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy

I love sociology books based on extensive interviews with subjects, and this is no exception. Ravenelle interviewed 80 workers from Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit, and Kitchensurfing, spending hours with each subject to get past the fluff and nonsense and dig into the real dirt. Airbnb hosts admitted to sleeping with guests, Uber drivers talk candidly about peeing wherever they can, Taskers talk about random sexual harassment, and Kitchensurfing chefs dish on requests they participate in orgies. The best gigs seemed to be Airbnb & Kitchensurfing (RIP), where there was really minimal interaction with the public. Uber and TaskRabbit push the downtrodden and out-of-other-option folks into situations that were unsafe, toxic, and without protection from their corporate bosses. Essentially, the dwindling middle class finds themselves able to hire servants from the ever-burgeoning class of underlings.

The last paragraph of the book sums it up nicely: “The sharing economy offers workers a way to ‘save themselves’ through extra work, but the growth of the sharing economy may only continue to subvert workers’ rights and protections. Hard-won victories for workers’ rights and protections are being hacked and disrupted in the name of a ‘cheaper, poorer quality’ progress that is eviscerating a hundred years of workers’ rights. The disruption offered by the sharing economy is simply a hustle.”