"If there's one thing to learn [from the pandemic] perhaps it's that we could pare back consumption to what's necessary..."
-- Juliet Schor
Juliet Schor is an influential economist, sociologist, and author of After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back, a Publishers Weekly "Big Indie Book" of Fall 2020.
After the Gig examines the dark side of the current gig economy. At the same time, it offers an original blueprint for making the "sharing economy" more humane and equitable through regulatory reform and user-owned cooperative platforms.
She has also written five national bestsellers about American work life and spending habits, including The Overworked American, The Overspent American, Born to Buy, Plenitude, and her new book, After the Gig.
Purchase After the Gig from the independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza: https://www.bhny.com/book/9780520325050
A member of Harvard's faculty for 17 years, Juliet currently teaches in the Sociology Department at Boston College. She is also Co-Chair of the Board of the Better Future Project, an organization that "works to build a diverse, powerful, and democratic grassroots movement that will drive society to address climate change and its devastating effects, advancing a fair and fast transition beyond coal, oil, and gas toward an economy powered by renewable energy that equitably benefits all people."
What are you most looking forward to in your personal life in the coming year?
Seeing my daughter! She lives in Seattle and we have barely left our home since March 12. She's a climate campaigner and is doing fantastic work trying to stop the financing and insuring of new fossil fuel projects. She's focused on a massive coal mine in Australia which people have been fighting for years. We last saw her in January. I'm hopeful that pandemic conditions will make it possible for us to see her in 2021.
What is your biggest hope for America in 2021?
We have enormous problems. Voting Trump out of the White House makes it possible to begin to solve them, but it's more like clearing away the brush than building something. We have to make progress on four inter-related "wicked" problems: the climate crisis, systemic racism, extreme inequality, and the erosion of democracy. If we aim for policies that address them all simultaneously, we have a much better chance of succeeding. The Green New Deal is one such policy. My biggest hope is that we get something like it, both at the national level, but also in states around the country.
What's the most important thing we can learn from the pandemic?
The pandemic laid bare the class and racist cleavages in our society. The rich flew off to their second homes. The middle classes, mostly white, were able to keep their jobs, working from home, but have been faced with impossible demands of childcare, stress and unrealistic expectations. The poor and Black and Brown Americans have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, struggling with exposure, higher death rates, and tremendous financial, food and housing insecurity.
If there's one thing to learn perhaps it's that we could pare back consumption to what's necessary: housing, food, healthcare, education -- and we could be okay. By that logic, there'd be much more to go around for everyone, and we could be a more equal, healthy, and sane society.
As someone who has advocated for shorter working hours for 30 years, I also think that lesson implies that we could have a wonderful, satisfying life with less work. It's time to leave the rat race.
What activity are you most looking forward to enjoying after pandemic restrictions are lifted?
Hugging my children. My son defended his PhD dissertation in September. We only see him outside, socially distanced and masked. My heart broke when I couldn't hug him after this wonderful accomplishment.
Is there anything on Earth that you find unexpectedly beautiful?
The sky in a remote area. I live in a place with too much light pollution to see much at night. Every so often when I'm able to see the magnificence of the universe I am surprised by how powerful it is.
What new social or technological development excites you the most?
I study digital technology at work. I'm excited by the prospect of using robots and AI to replace human labor. There's so much that people will no longer have to do -- we could have a much better economy and society if we can radically transform the social relations in which we employ these technologies. Let's take them out of the hands of a small number of too wealthy individuals and put them to work for the common good.
What did you most enjoy about writing After the Gig?
The collaboration. The research was done over years with a great group of PhD students in sociology (William Attwood-Charles, Mehmet Cansoy, Lindsey “Luka” Carfagna, Samantha Eddy, Connor Fitzmaurice, Isak Ladegaard, and Robert Wengronowitz). It was an unusual project in that we had a lot of flexibility and were able to take the research wherever our interests took us. We did a lot of the analysis together.
Although I love working on my own, and wrote my previous books solo, it was a joy to do this with a group of talented and committed sociologists.
What idea, subject or field are you most looking forward to exploring in 2021?
I'm going back to studying working hours and their relationship to climate change. It's a topic I've been working on, on and off, for 30 years. I'm especially excited that we have a new era in Washington that may be conducive to addressing worktime reduction.
Visit Juliet Schor's web page at Boston College: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/mcas/departments/sociology/people/faculty-directory/juliet-schor.html
Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JulietSchor
Learn more about After the Gig: https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520325050/after-the-gig