Bronwen Morgan (UNSW Law School) will be presenting her latest research exploring the potential of platform cooperativism as a response to the moral critique of markets. She finds that the legal framework for platform cooperativism – both in terms of regulation and the formal legal structure of an enterprise – powerfully shapes the potential of the movement for transformative social, environmental and democratic impact.
Bronwen Morgan is a socio-legal researcher who explores diverse economies with a particular interest in commons, solidarity and community economies, and their relationship with sharing and platform economies (Morgan 2019). The paper she will be presenting explores the potential of platform cooperativism as a response to the moral critique of markets. Platform cooperativism envisages melding the tools of digital platforms with the forms and practices of shared ownership and control, as well as embedding overt commitments to social, environmental and democratic values into organisational design.
The paper has three aims:
1. To use the lens of community economies literature to explore the salience of platform cooperativism as a way to operationalise moral critique of markets
2. To define and articulate the scope of platform cooperativism, in particular:
3. To stress the importance of integrating law and legality into a community economies approach, building on Morgan and Kuch (2019).
The legal framework for platform cooperativism – both in terms of regulation and the formal legal structure of an enterprise – powerfully shapes the potential of the movement for transformative social, environmental and democratic impact. Tensions between legal pluralism and legal instrumentalism provide a fascinating lens on the transformative potential of platform cooperativism.
A legal pluralist approach to regulation and formal legal structures has much stronger transformative potential than a legal instrumentalist approach. From the latter perspective, both existing regulation and enterprise structures severely constrain transformative potential; as do even reformist developments in social enterprise. While legal pluralism opens up much more transformative potential, the capacity to harness that potential through enduring formal institutions is limited by the dominating influence of legal instrumentalism.
Morgan and Kuch (2019) ‘Diverse Legalities: Pluralism and Instrumentalism’ in K. Gibson, & K. Dombrowski (Eds.), Handbook of Diverse Economies. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Morgan (2019) ‘Transcending the Corporation: Social Enterprise, Cooperatives and Commons-Based Governance’, Chapter 24 in T. Clarke, J. O'Brien, & C. R. T. O'Kelley (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Corporation (pp. 667-686). Oxford University Press.
Bronwen Morgan joined UNSW Law School in October 2012, having taught at the University of Bristol, UK for seven years as Professor of Socio-legal Studies. Prior to Bristol, she taught at the University of Oxford for six years in association with the Centre for Socio-legal Studies, and both St Hilda’s College (1999-2001) and Wadham College (2002-2005). She currently is Professor of Law at UNSW Law.
Her research has long focused on transformations of the regulatory state in both national-comparative and transnational contexts, with a particular interest in the interaction between the technocratic interstices of regulation and collective commitments to democracy, conviviality and ecological sustainability. More recently, she has focused on new and diverse economies, mostly of the kind affiliated with solidarity and the creation of a commons, and the tensions between these and recent developments in sharing or platform economies. Empirically she has most recently explored energy, food, water and new kinds of lawyers.
Her ongoing work is on new legal models for social enterprise and emerging solidarity or commons-based economies, with a particular focus on platform cooperativism. She has also recently concluded two projects as a PLuS Alliance Fellow: one on urban agriculture and the other on bottom-up participatory approaches to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.