James Clark

Uber Still Hasn't Turned a Profit →

03 October, 2017

Sam Kriss:

This is one explanation. But there's something else simultaneously at work. Uber's investors are losing billions every year; they must be buying something, beyond the promise that everything will work out once there's a self-driving car in every garage and a chip in every brain. You could argue that companies like Uber or Amazon fill a role somewhat similar to that played by the state in more traditional capitalism: their job isn't to produce a profit by themselves, but to ensure that the relations of production are upheld, so that profits can be made elsewhere. Uber's shareholders are buying the world.

Uber isn't just a company; it's a fully-fleshed model for the economic structures emerging throughout the developed world. It breaks the laws of old-fashioned national and local governments with impunity (just watch; London will roll over eventually). Just about every new tech firm has to announce itself in relation to Uber: an Uber for dogs, an Uber for education, an Uber for sadness. It's a machine for processing human relations. We wander blind in the darkness, until an algorithm puts one person in another's car. From then on, all our relations are transactional, and all of them are processed – from tipping to conversation – through Uber's platforms. It's not just a piece of computer technology; it's a social technology, designed to individuate us, to turn us into consumers and entrepreneurs and nothing more, to leave us utterly alone and utterly powerless.

Uber is better though of as a political project more than a company. It's job is to be the tip of the spear for surveillance capitalism's remaking of labour relations. And it's doing a very good job of it too.

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Hey, I'm James Clark. I’m an organiser, writer and social movement nerd based in Melbourne, Australia. You can read more about me here.