Collaborative consumption and sharing economies

Authored by: Stefan Wahlen , Mikko Laamanen

Routledge Handbook on Consumption

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138939387
eBook ISBN: 9781315675015
Adobe ISBN: 9781317380900


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Recently, various newer, older and revived forms of living, producing and consuming have gained ground in academic and societal debates. Collaborative consumption (CC) and sharing economies (SE) have become part of a nomenclature describing and conceptualizing developments promising different forms of prosperity cemented in new types of economic revitalization and good life with minimized dependence on material possessions and ownership. A common denominator of CC and SE initiatives is the mediating role of new digital technologies connecting various actors and modes of transfer. Consequently, CC and SE effectively delineate and concern new forms of consumption and consumers. Some forms of CC and SE illustrate new types of consumer activism and alternative lifestyles with a heightened awareness of the consequences of unfettered capitalism whereas others emerge as new forms of business activity. Both can be oriented towards sustainable development: the former in (militant) opposition of growth and injustice, the latter in seeing market-mediated provisioning as a source of collective benefit. In this chapter we offer a critical reading of contemporary CC and SE literatures and attempt to delineate possible boundaries by referring to classical and contemporary theories and empirical research in these areas. We address the broad array of ideas that are bundled under CC and SE: given that these concepts are continuously (re-)defined, it increasingly becomes muddled as to what they stand for. While CC and SE can be seen challenging current social, cultural, economic, and sometimes, political institutions, it’s not clear whether these new forms of economic activity are an alternative, better than, or even worse than traditional forms of capitalism and consumption.

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