Over the past few years, the sharing economy has rapidly grown in size and popularity throughout North America, Western Europe and other world regions. Many individuals and groups are now pioneering the age-old practice of sharing as a solution to pressing global issues, while at the same time many critics are beginning to question the purpose, significance and future direction of this burgeoning movement in its diverse forms.
There are both reasons for optimism as well as caution about the current development of the sharing economy. On the one hand, its gradual political evolution suggests that the ethic of sharing is set to become increasingly essential and popular in the years ahead, especially in the wake of continuing economic crises and the collapsing model of debt-fuelled overconsumption. On the other hand, however, there are already signs that the sharing economy is being co-opted by purely commercial interests and stripped of its transformative potential as an answer to gross inequality, ecological destruction, the lack of true democracy and many other progressive causes.
For this reason, STWR has published various resources over recent months and years that outline how authentic forms of sharing relate to the political and economic challenges of the 21st century. Many of these blogs, articles or reports relate directly to the sharing economy, a selection of which are collated below according to four broad subheadings. As more and more people become engaged with the theory and practice of economic sharing, it is hoped that this important conversation will grow beyond solely interpersonal and commercialised forms of collaboration, and gradually embrace the need to integrate the principle of sharing into our international economic and political structures.
This is the main message that is reiterated in the various resources below: that the growing support for the sharing economy indeed has the potential to change the way we understand and address the many crises we face, but it has to be a genuine form of economic sharing that addresses the power structures and politics that maintain an unjust status quo.
Excluded communities and the future of sharing: In response to criticisms that the sharing economy appeals mainly to white middle class populations, it must become more inclusive and closely aligned with other fundamental forms of sharing in economic and political terms. Published 2nd March 2015.
Global justice, sustainability and the sharing economy: If the sharing economy movement is to play a role in shifting society away from the dominant economic paradigm, it will have to get political. And this means guarding against the co-optation of sharing by the corporate sector, while joining forces with a much larger body of activists that have long been calling - either explicitly or implicitly - for more transformative and fundamental forms of economic sharing across the world. Published 3rd June 2014.
The sharing economy: a short introduction to its political evolution. Can the sharing economy movement address the root causes of the world’s converging crises? Unless the sharing of resources is promoted in relation to human rights and concerns for equity, democracy, social justice and sustainability, then such claims are without substantiation – although there are many hopeful signs that the conversation is slowly moving in the right direction. Published 21st January 2014.
The sharing economy: our sustainable future. If we believe that the sharing economy has a role to play in creating a fairer and more sustainable world, then we need to look broadly at how the principle of sharing applies to all aspects of policymaking – particularly on an international scale. The following article is based on an edited transcript of a presentation by STWR's Rajesh Makwana for an event held at the House of Commons in Westminster, London, on the emergence of the sharing economy and the policy challenges it presents. Published 3rd December 2012.
Can the sharing economy solve global hunger? It all depends... An article published recently on the avant-garde website Co.Exist poses an important question that is worth repeating: can the sharing economy solve global hunger? But perhaps the real question is: will the evolving ideas and practices related to the sharing economy remain depoliticised and limited to the local and national level, or does the practice of sharing have much greater application as a solution to major crises on the global and inter-governmental level? Published 7th June 2013.
From sharing cities to a sharing world: Few could disagree on the beneficial aspects of sharing resources within communities or across municipalities, but does the sharing economy in its current form represent a movement that can challenge unjust power structures and pave the way to a better world? Published 7th February 2014.
Imagining the ultimate global sharing day: The growing support for the sharing economy has the potential to change the way we understand and address the many challenges we face. But it is at the national and global level that sharing can have a truly transformative impact in relation to poverty, sustainability and world peace. Published 16th November 2012.
Global Sharing Day 2012: STWR are one of the partners for the world’s first ever Global Sharing Day on Wednesday 14th November. As a host of sharing-related activities take place throughout the day, let’s celebrate the importance of sharing in all its forms – including in relation to poverty, inequality and climate change. Published 12th November 2012.
Why we should all be talking about global sharing: Today, it seems that the idea of sharing is being discussed in almost any context except the political economy. This may be understandable, but if we're serious about ending poverty and healing the environment perhaps it's about time that we all start talking about global sharing. Published 6th November 2012.
It’s time to prioritize the global sharing economy: The very basis of the sharing economy is being eroded in countries where austerity measures are dramatically reducing public spending on social welfare and essential services. But governments could collect and redistribute huge quantities of additional finance for critical human needs. Published 18th October 2012.
The age of sharing: As we celebrate National Sharing Day, let’s make sure we advocate for sharing in all its forms. The true milestone for the Age of Sharing will be the creation of a global sharing economy that ensures we end poverty and live sustainably. Published 20th June 2012.
Financing the global sharing economy: A report by Share The World’s Resources demonstrates how governments could mobilise over $2.8 trillion each year to bolster the global sharing economy and prevent life-threatening deprivation, reverse austerity measures and mitigate the human impacts of climate change.
Exploring the virtues of sharing and collaboration - STWR interviewed by Sharing.Lab: To realise the true potential of sharing and collaborative consumption we need to challenge the prevailing economic model, particularly the excesses of consumer culture and the widening of inequalities that are an inherent feature of modern capitalist societies. Published 15th June 2015.
Viva la #SharingSpring! As the Sharing Spring kicks off, more and more people are participating in localised forms of sharing in response to the failures of government and big business. While this is right and imperative, it is equally vital that citizens call upon their political representatives to integrate the principle of sharing into governmental policies on national and global levels. Published 5th March 2014.
Values and the sharing economy: In order to stimulate further public engagement and activism on global issues, it is important for those promoting the sharing economy to place far greater emphasis on the environmental and social benefits of sharing rather than any purely personal benefits, such as financial gain. Published 9th February 2013.
Cultivating intrinsic values through sharing: How do we widen, deepen and maintain public commitment to campaign on ‘bigger-than-self-issues' which often do not have an immediate relevance to our personal lives - issues such as world poverty or climate change? Published 29th January 2013.
Connecting the dots in the sharing community: The sharing economy is becoming more popular than ever before with its emphasis on accessing and sharing resources rather than owning them. And now there are signs that the concept is being gradually broadened to include more political, environmental and global justice issues, as highlighted by a number of articles and events in recent weeks. Published 3rd December 2012.
Where next for the sharing economy debate?
As social and environmental crises continue to escalate, it seems increasingly unlikely that the sharing economy will lead the way to a more sustainable future – unless it actively challenges the power structures that maintain an unjust status quo. Published 18th January 2016
#OuiShareFest2015: Rediscovering the true meaning of sharing and collaboration: The diversity of opinion at this year’s OuiShare festival could pave the way for a broader debate on the political drivers of social and environmental crises, as well as the role that sharing and collaboration can play in addressing them. Published 4th June 2015.
Reflections on the future of the sharing economy: At a time when inequality is on the rise and nations are failing to reduce global carbon emissions, what does the future hold for the sharing economy movement unless it mobilises to reform government policies that are the root cause of climate change and socio-economic exclusion? Published 3rd March 2015.
Broadening the definitions of sharing: A new definition of the sharing economy by The People Who Share outlines a vision of a new economic system that embeds collaboration at its heart. In the growing public discussion on sharing, this basic principle is increasingly being considered as fundamental for achieving a more equitable and sustainable society. Published 12th March 2014.
The conversation on Sharing with a capital ‘S’: Discussions and events that focus on sharing are becoming ever more mainstream in 2013, but the broad conversation that encompasses the sharing economy also poses some challenges - especially when we consider what sharing means in international terms. Published 19th May 2013.
Expanding the debate on global sharing: The age-old concept of sharing is increasingly being discussed in relation to political and economic issues, even though a public discussion on the importance of global sharing is still in its early days. But there are many signs that this is beginning to change - and there are lots of reasons why we should all get involved in the emerging debate. Published 4th December 2012.
Putting the ‘sharing’ back in to the sharing economy: A vibrant debate is beginning to question the meaning of sharing in relation to the big questions of our time. In a recent article printed in STIR magazine, STWR argues that this emerging economic concept should not be beholden to solely personal, consumer-oriented or commercialised forms of collaboration, and must ultimately be reflected in government policies on the national and international level. Published 24th April 2014.
Reclaiming the transformative potential of the sharing economy: Can the ethic and practice of sharing really create fairer, more sustainable and more democratic societies - and if so, how is it going to happen? An audio of a talk given by STWR in Brighton, UK, published 4th November 2014.
Photo credit: Truthout.org, flickr creative commons