Dynamics of Contention in the Gig Economy: Rage Against the Platform, Customer, or State?

Alex Wood*, Nicholas Martindale, Vili Lehdonvirta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Protest in the gig economy has taken many forms and targets (platforms, customers, and state officials). However, researchers are yet to adequately account for this diversity. We use a European survey of Upwork and PeoplePerHour platform workers in the remote gig economy to investigate worker orientation towards different forms of protest. Results reveal that worker anger, dependence, and digital communication shape contention in the remote gig economy. Support for collective organisation is associated not only with anger at platforms but also workers’ dependence on the platform and communication with other workers. Whereas individual action against clients is associated only with anger and communication but not communication and support for state regulation is associated only with anger but not dependence or communication. We conclude that despite the novelty of these emergent social relations, the relational approach entailed by Mobilisation Theory can aid explanation of contention in the gig economy by shedding light on the dynamic process by which solidarity and dependence alter the perceived costs and benefits of particular remedies to injustice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Technology, Work and Employment
Early online date27 Sept 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training for the funding which made the survey possible as well as all those involved in its design and collection: Anoush Margaryan, Julian Albert, Susanne Klausing, Laura Larke, Huw Davies, Laura Pinkerton, Siȃn Brooke, Otto Kässi and Gretta Corporaal. This research was also supported by a grant from the European Research Council (grant number 639652: iLabour).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Brian Towers (BRITOW) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Gig economy
  • online freelancing
  • platform work
  • protest
  • mobilisation
  • resistance
  • state regulation


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