Coworking and Co-operatives: A Union in the Making

Greig de Peuter. 2017. “Coworking and Co-operatives: A Union in the Making.” STIR 19, Autumn, 12-15.

Radical analysts of work will find plenty to dislike about coworking. Users typically fork over a fee to a private business, shouldering the costs of flexible production, buying back access to resources recoded as perks by lean capitalism (like a desk or workplace community), and, in the process, sponsoring a fresh zone of profiteering. Paradoxically, coworking cements what it’s a partial defence against: the fragmentation of employment into so many projects, the rise of compulsory entrepreneurship, and the restructuring of firms according to an outsourcing model. Rather than surrender it to private business or dismiss it as a shill of neoliberal exploitation, coworking is better grasped as contested: it assists growing numbers of independent workers in navigating precarious employment. The question is whether coworking spaces can do double-duty, or, help sustain livelihoods and advance economic alternatives. One path to push back against coworking’s capture by corporate capital and to move beyond the pressures of individualisation on coworking members is co-operativism.

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