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Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy

by Alexandrea J. Ravenelle University of California Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 288 pages
AU$48.99 NZ$50.43
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Choose your hours, choose your work, be your own boss, control your own income. Welcome to the sharing economy, a nebulous collection of online platforms and apps that promise to transcend capitalism. Supporters argue the gig economy will reverse economic inequality, enhance worker rights, and bring entrepreneurship to the masses. But does it?


In Hustle and Gig, Alexandrea Ravenelle shares the personal stories of nearly eighty predominantly millennial workers from Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and Kitchensurfing - how the autonomy they expected has been usurped by jobs doled out by algorithms and where anything less than an immediate acceptance of a job - and cheerful completion - incurs the wrath of bad ratings, limiting future potential jobs. From the “Success Stories” of people who make a living from “hustling”, to the “Strugglers” who can’t make ends meet, and to the “Strivers” with stable jobs who use the sharing economy for extra cash, Ravenelle sheds light on how the sharing economy has been both persecutor and savior for the working class. In the blink of an eye, the sharing economy reflects labor issues first seen in the 1800s and early 1900s, as it upends generations of workplace protection in the name of disruption—worker safety; workplace protections around discrimination and sexual harassment; the right to unionize; and the right to redress for injuries. Poignant and evocative, Hustle and Gig exposes how the gig economy is the millennial's version of minimum wage precarious work.

List of Illustrations

1. Strugglers, Strivers, and Success Stories
2. What Is the Sharing Economy?
3. Forward to the Past and the Early Industrial Age
4. Workplace Troubles
5. Sharing Is Caring
6. All in a Day’s (Dirty) Work
7. Living the Dream?
8. Conclusion

Appendix 1. Demographic Survey
Appendix 2. Interview Matrix

"Hustle and Gig vividly exposes the contradictions between the lofty promises of gig work for those with high social and cultural capital (e.g., Airbnb and Kitchensurfing workers) and the darker reality of many who struggle to make ends meet through platforms such as Uber and TaskRabbit."—Arne L. Kalleberg, author of Precarious Lives: Job Insecurity and Well-Being in Rich Democracies

"Hustle and Gig takes a smart, penetrating look at what’s happening in the platform economy—how it resembles an earlier industrial age when workers toiled long hours doing piecework for meager pay while lacking many basic protections. This book sheds a much-needed light onto some dark corners of the gig economy."—Steven Greenhouse, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor

"Reveals how the gig economy is organized in ways that actually serve to roll back protections for workers—it is a 'hustle.'"—Jennifer Silva, author of Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty
"Ravenelle demonstrates an understanding of both local and global instances of emotional labor and precarious workplace challenges. Readers from every walk of life will respond to these excellent connections."—Tamara R. Mose, author of The Playdate and Raising Brooklyn

"Upends the slick rhetoric of micro-entrepreneurship and flexibility to reveal the seamy underside of providers’ actual experiences—sexual harassment, uncompensated workplace injuries, client criminality, and extreme economic insecurity. These unforgettable narratives should reset the conversation about this new type of work."—Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth
Alexandrea J. Ravenelle is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Mercy College and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU.