CfP: Travail et emploi à l’ère du capitalisme de plateforme / Work and employment in an era of platform capitalism

Call for papers, deadline 27 October 2017
The debate engendered by new forms of work and employment has grown considerably in recent times. In the eyes of many observers and journalists, western society is being uberised. This neologism derives from Uber, the now famous platform company that connects riders (customers requiring transport) to drivers (private vehicle owners). Indeed, Uber exemplifies the emergence of a platform capitalism which has shaken the foundations of collective organisation and traditional employment categories. Uber’s case reflects a new business model. In this model, companies operate via a digital platform; they act as intermediaries between customers and service providers, and between job seekers and job suppliers. Outside of the transport sector, platform companies have developed in multiple domains, such as home delivery (Deliveroo) and holiday accommodation (Airbnb). Some of these burgeoning economic actors have become multinationals in the space of a few years (Airbnb and Uber), boasting enormous revenues and paraded as icons of the new digital economy. The purpose of this international symposium is to examine the new types of work and economic practices that have appeared in the wake of these digital platforms.
 The multidisciplinary research project CAPLA is currently financed (2016-2019) by the French National Research Agency (ANR). Its object is to study the social impact of platform capitalism. The symposium provides an opportunity to put into perspective how the findings from this large-scale empirical investigation, which is primarily based in France, are connected to the findings from other social science studies related to the French situation, but also to allow the work carried out in different countries to take its rightful place in the debate.  
 By way of guideline, submission proposals could explore the following themes:
  • The social structure of platform capitalism: What is the social footprint of these new service providers? How do they juggle resources (professional skills, economic capital, assets) and constraints (difficulties in gaining access to employment, impact on family life) when offering their services via a platform? How have inequalities surfaced in these new forms of employment initiative that espouse the ‘sharing economy’ ideal? Have platform companies created a new worldwide division of labour?
  • The commodification of ‘non-working time’: How has the digital economy once again redrawn the lines between professional work, housework and voluntary work? How has it contributed to the commodification of activities that formerly took place outside the confines of legally paid work? Will some of these activities eventually be recognised as paid work? To what extent can the commodification of non-working time provide the momentum for professionalisation? What have the repercussions been for existing professions and trades? Has product/service quality been standardised?
  • Employment categories and forms of labour organisation: What are the exact functions of the intermediary or platform: connecting users/providers, coordinating, quality control? What channels and mechanisms do platform companies use to organise labour? What are the consequences of this for labour organisation? Have platform companies contributed to a transformation in labour organisation? What legal status do platform workers hold? 
  • Statutory and policy regulations affecting these new economic actors: How have economic, political, statutory and regulatory bodies intervened to ensure that platform company activities are managed and controlled at a national level? To what extent do these bodies protect basic worker rights? What social protection is available to platform workers? What is the difference between the level of protection granted to these workers and to wage earners? What roles are assumed by recognised worker organisations (trade unions, trade associations)? Have platform workers initiated their own specific forms of organisation?   
Submission guidelines
Papers can be submitted in French or English.
Submission deadline: 27 October 2017.
The one page submissions, in either French or English, should set out the theme of the paper, the research questions, the methodology and the data.
Assessment of the submissions and feedback: 8 January 2018.
Deadline for papers: 4 May 2018.