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Uber and the Unmaking and Remaking of Taxi Capitalisms: Technology, Law and Resistance in Historical Perspective

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Document pages: 37 pages

Abstract: The rise of digital platforms through which labour is bought and sold is transforming the world of work and challenging the existing regulatory regimes that govern it. Depending on one’s point of view, Uber has become the poster child or bête noir of this transformation, challenging traditional taxi regulation and labour and employment law. Technological utopians celebrate the transformation of traditional workers into micro-entrepreneurs, free to work whenever and for as long as they want in proportion to their preferences for income and leisure, while critics see a degradation of the standard employment relation and higher levels of precariousness and labour market vulnerability. However, with few exceptions, most discussions of Uber fail to put it into historical perspective and in particular do not examine the history of taxi cab capitalism and its underlying relations of production. Using Toronto, Canada as a case study, this study explores the shifting modes of capitalism that have existed over the motorized taxi industry’s 100 year history, focusing on the impact and interaction of technological change, changing legal regulation and worker resistance in driving these changes. Viewed from this perspective, the Uber challenge to prior regimes of taxi capitalism is less a matter of technological innovation than a bold challenge to the law and its future is likely to be determined by the effectiveness of worker and taxi industry resistance.

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