My research investigates questions of democracy, capitalism and technology, with a focus on how emerging economic arrangements affect democratic institutions, principles and legal regimes. To these subjects, I bring expertise in theories of democracy, the history of political thought, and public law.
My dissertation, Negotiating the Sharing Economy: Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy in the Era of Neoliberal Capitalism, addresses the relationship between the so-called “sharing economy” and democracy through the lenses of political theory. In recent years the sharing economy (the economic sector that includes American companies such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit; Chinese companies such as Didi Chuxing and Tujia; Grab in Southeast Asia, and India’s Ola) has become an economic force around the world, altering the daily lives of many millions of commuters, tourists, and workers, and enormously affecting entire industries. Some have heralded the sharing economy as a “return to the commons” — a more communal, less competitive, and less atomized social and economic order in which people pool resources via online platforms and, consequently, share in a renewed sense of the public. Others have criticized such notions as naive and misleading, seeing the sharing economy as embodying an extreme form of neoliberal capitalism in which individuals are encouraged to be entrepreneurial and to see themselves and their belongings as potential sources of revenue.
While the sharing economy has received much attention in the popular press, and increasingly is the subject of economic and legal scholarship, there has been much less work considering this arguably new, but inarguably significant, economic sector in terms of its theoretical relationship to democracy. Through an engagement with theorists and philosophers including Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Emmanuel Levinas, as well as contemporary scholars of neoliberalism, I aim to fill this gap in the scholarship by evaluating the concrete practices of and rhetoric employed by sharing economy companies. I weigh claims that the sharing economy might be a bridge to a more radically democratic future — a future in which “sharing” is central to addressing the socioeconomic and environmental challenges facing peoples around the world — against the possibility that it will lead us further down an inegalitarian, dehumanizing path.