Our society can be understood as ubercapitalist then in a double sense: in that this form of neoliberal capitalism is seemingly ever more powerful and irresistible (the prefix ‘uber’ actually means ‘advanced’, ‘irresistible’, ‘higher’, ‘superior’, ‘more powerful’); and that the San Francisco-based sharing economy firm Uber provides one of its most characteristic and often referred to examples. Indeed, having become a ‘global brand largely on the strength of its intellectual property and without a need to manufacture anything’, Fortune magazine predicts Uber is ‘destined to be one of the world’s most important companies’.
This talk will discuss the implications of such a transformation to an ubercapitalist society for the organization of labor particularly through the prism of those who work and study in the university. It will do so partly because academics, researchers and students are now being encouraged to become microentrepreneurs of themselves; but mainly because the university provides one of the few spaces in post-industrial society where the forces of contemporary neoliberalism’s anti-public sector regime are still being overtly opposed. It follows that such changes in the way labor is organized will be all the more powerfully and visibly marked in the case of the publically funded university system. Indeed if, as recent research reveals, being an academic is one of the most desired jobs in Britain today, it may be because this occupation is seen as offering a way of living that is not just about consuming and working and very little else. In this way, Ubercapitalism will provide a sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years - and what we can do about it.