A business journalist who has written for Quartz and Mashable takes a closer look at the shifting tides of work in the United States, from the norm of a steady nine-to-five to contingent "gigs" that offer workers greater flexibility—and precarity.
She follows freelancers as they try, and mostly fail, to find a better way to make a living ... the journalist offer[s] a deep look at what [David] Graeber calls our 'civilization based on work'—and what’s so often unsatisfying about living in it ... The gig economy turns out to be less a brave new world than an opportunity for companies to transfer risks to their employees and offer few benefits in return. Kessler concludes that reinventing work without also reinventing the social safety net 'can’t quite count as progress' ... A UBI, which is a guaranteed government stipend, might grant Kessler’s freelancers the freedom they were looking for. The question would then be: freedom to do what?
Kessler knows her subject well having covered the gig economy as a senior writer at Fast Company and managed startup coverage at Mashable. It is a book presumably written by a Millennial author for Millennial and Gen Z readers who will find it relevant and interesting. Novice tech readers may be challenged by the book’s dive into personal and corporate technology issues and will likely find it dense. Technology companies and startups such as Mechanical Turk, Deliveroo, UpWork, GIN and Managed by Q will be entities outside of their knowledge base. Many such readers would probably not read the book, but it might make a good gift to a tech savvy 20 or 30 year old.
One strength of Kessler’s book is that she is not interested in the efficiencies created by this new economy so much as the conditions suffered by those employed in it ... Though many of Kessler’s subjects are not the average gig-industry employee, they can be portals to particular insights ... [one] story helps the reader to see just where the efficiency of gig labor comes from: Workers develop their own ways to speed up the completion of their tasks, even with no guidance ... Gig workers, as Kessler reminds us, do not compose a large segment of the world’s labor force, but neither did industrial proletarians when Marx and Engels started paying special attention to them. This category of workers who do more and get less will continue to grow in importance for the 21st-century economy. At this point it’s clear that this is mostly bad for most people.