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Racial platform capitalism: empire, migration and the making of Uber in London


  • Gebrial, Dalia


The critical platform studies literature has built a compelling picture of how techniques like worker (mis)classification, algorithmic management and workforce atomisation lie at the heart of how ‘work on-demand via apps’ actively restructure labour. Much of this emerging scholarship identifies that platform workforces are predominantly comprised of migrant and racially minoritised workers. However, few studies theorise migration and race as structuring logics of the platform model and the precarity it engenders. This paper addresses this gap by exploring how the platform economy – specifically work on-demand via apps – both shapes and is shaped by historically contingent contexts of racialisation, and their constitutive processes such as embodiment and immigration policy/rhetoric. Beyond identifying the over-representation of racial minorities in the platform economy, it argues that processes of racialisation have been crucial at every stage of the platform economy's rise to dominance, and therefore constitutes a key organising principle of platform capitalism – hence the term ‘racial platform capitalism’. In doing so, this paper draws on the racial capitalism literature, to situate key platform techniques such as worker (mis)classification and algorithmic management as forms of racial practice, deployed to (re-)organise surplus urban labour-power following the 2008 financial crisis. This framework will be explored through an ethnographic study of Uber's rise in London. Through this, the paper demonstrates a co-constitutive relationship, where the conditions of minoritised workers in a global city like London post-2008, and the political economy of platform companies can be said to have co-produced one another.

Suggested Citation

  • Gebrial, Dalia, 2022. "Racial platform capitalism: empire, migration and the making of Uber in London," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 115538, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:115538

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lisa Tilley & Robbie Shilliam, 2018. "Raced Markets: An Introduction," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(5), pages 534-543, September.
    2. Diamond Ashiagbor, 2021. "Race and Colonialism in the Construction of Labour Markets and Precarity," Industrial Law Journal, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 506-531.
    3. John Stehlin & Michael Hodson & Andrew McMeekin, 2020. "Platform mobilities and the production of urban space: Toward a typology of platformization trajectories," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 52(7), pages 1250-1268, October.
    4. Alex Bryson & Michael White, 2019. "Migrants and Low-Paid Employment in British Workplaces," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 33(5), pages 759-776, October.
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    More about this item


    Racial capitalism; migration; platform labour; precarity; urbanism; Sage deal;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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