“Platform cooperativism” is a truncated version of cooperativism. If we want to conquer work to reconquer life, we must not fear life and try to protect ourselves from it, but embrace it.
Yesterday, we talked for a long time about the video above. It’s worth watching. Sinek’s thesis is that the culture of adherence “hooks” us, creating real addiction, because receiving “likes,” retweets, and silly chat messages from friends makes us release dopamine. Immediate satisfaction. Dependence. And inevitably, a mechanism substitution is produced: in any difficult situation, just like someone who relieved stress with alcohol during adolescence says as an adult “I need a drink,” the adherence addict looks at their cellphone, disconnects from the immediate surroundings, and seeks approval in the form of little hearts. Whether they are venting online or not, they disconnect from interpersonal relationships. The correlation between depression and use of Facebook beyond a certain number of hours seems to show that he’s right.
What Sinek points out about the generation born since 1984 is that this substitution has a disastrous cultural effect: in the first place, friends stop being a community, people you lean on, and become people you have fun with. If there’s a better option, they’ll toss you aside. Nobody gets too involved. Deep interpersonal relationships are not developed. Secondly, work inevitably becomes frustrating, because work or professional experiences cannot be gratifying and create meaning if you don’t feel that you’re building, and that building is a communal activity. The result is unhappiness. According to Sinek, “millenials” are running into two “inescable” obstacles: moments in which deep personal relationships are needed, and work.
When we created the term “platform cooperativism” a few years before it became fashionable in the English-speaking world, we were seeking quick solutions to the crisis at a time when unemployment was beginning to take off in more and more countries. The idea of a platform that took advantage of the possibilities of automation to aggregate the services of independent freelancers was appealing to us as a fast and simple tool capable of bolstering the economic situation of those who were weakly situated in the market.
But we weren’t fooling ourselves: “platform cooperativism” basically means cooperativism without community, and therefore without learning, without knowledge shared and developed in common. A “cooperativism without touching,” without even meeting, that lost all meaning of worker cooperativism, and which only was interesting in the framework of a cataclysmic wave of unemployment in which any tool had to be considered good. It didn’t occur to us that anyone would turn it into the banner of “a new cooperative movement” with pretensions of “overtaking” traditional cooperativism.
But if we connect the dots, the result is obvious: “platform cooperativism” is a way to overcome the “obstacle” that the logic of belonging and commitment presents to the culture of adherence. Instead of learning to make community, rather than finding what the Adlerians call “the courage to belong” and enjoy fraternity, it redefines work with the logic of the books of faces to make it “easy,” so there’s no need to get involved, make contact, be appreciated, commit to others…
If cooperativism has value, it’s precisely because it isn’t emotionally “low cost”; because it requires us to learn to discuss, to disagree, to be appreciated, to come to consensus. It has value because isn’t a sugar-frosted or truncated experience. It’s powerful, it’s personal, it’s full of life. If we want conquer work to reconquer life we must not fear life and try to protect ourselves from it, but embrace it.
PS. When “platform cooperativism” is not proposed as a form of work, but as a way of economically sustaining and distributing the eventual benefits from a service in the so-called “sharing economy,” there is a different critique, which we have made many times. In the first place, for every centralized service in the “sharing economy” a free (in both senses) and distributed alternative can be created that does not need a hired bureaucracy. We have demonstrated this with functional and useful code. So, what sense does it make to maintain a centralized structure? The answer is obvious: to create a bureaucracy that “mediates” between the “members” by taking a cut to pay for wages and infrastructure. It’s a way of “inventing” unnecessary jobs by creating scarcity artificially.