Hannah Schilling
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Not just of symbolic value
Work to make oneself living
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The conclusion embeds the relevance of economies of symbolic goods in the debate on value making in the platform metropolis: capitalist accumulation extracts value from everyday life in cities. More specifically, how can we understand the intermingling of symbolic resources, the ‘non-economic’ with the market-like accruing of value, especially in contexts of commodification of labour and the workforce? The making of urban livelihoods fundamentally relies on favours, symbolic gestures and gifts, as illustrated by the practices of urban youths interviewed for this project. Technological change and the emergence of digitally mediated work does not make such ‘smoothing’ irrelevant. On the contrary, symbolic resources and relational mechanisms of honour and reputation also organize access to resources in the gig economy. The book argues that looking at the entanglement of economic practices makes it possible to see the implicit use of labour power, veiled in metaphors of a game, or of gifts, in urban digital economies. Moreover, the digital transformation in cities challenges urban dwellers’ opportunities for social reproduction. In a context of ‘permanent temporariness’, the importance of work as a means to construct status, reputation, honour – of building person value – remains fundamental, even if not bound into long-term careers as self-accruing individuals. The urban youth at the centre of this research, and their longing to bring themselves into play (with others), working, searching and collaborating, show that work is more than making a living: in the end it is about making oneself living (Ferguson and Li 2018).

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Globalized urban precarity in Berlin and Abidjan

Young men and the digital economy


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