The Ambivalence of Coworking: On the Politics of an Emerging Work Practice

Greig de Peuter, Nicole Cohen, and Francesca Saraco (forthcoming) “The Ambivalence of Coworking: On the Politics of an Emerging Work Practice”, European Journal of Cultural Studies.

Self-employed media and cultural workers are key users of coworking spaces, where a growing number of independent workers share desks and office amenities, escape the isolation of working from home, and seek contacts for paid work. Informed by interviews with coworking space operators and members, this article assesses coworking as a response to precarity. We argue that social and political ambivalence is intrinsic to the culture of coworking. First, we situate coworking in a political-economic context, claiming that coworking emerged as a worker-developed response to changing economic conditions but, in its current form, is increasingly commodified and ultimately reinforces labour flexibilization. Second, we survey meanings attached to coworking, highlighting tensions between coworking’s counter-corporate identity and its recapitulation of neoliberal norms. Third, we address subjectivity formation, proposing that coworking spaces are a stage for the performance of network sociality. We conclude by considering coworking’s political potential as a platform for collective action.

Image credit: Cultural Workers Organize