In Regulating Sharing: The Sharing Economy as an Alternative Capitalist System, Professor Rashmi Dyal-Chand challenges the assumption–implicit in the fast-growing legal literature on the “sharing economy”–that companies in this sector operate in the manner of traditional firms. Framing the sharing economy as a “nascent form of a coordinated market economy,” Dyal-Chand calls for regulation rooted in a deeper understanding of the institutions–both the technological platforms most commonly associated with the sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and their ilk) and a burgeoning collection of more organic and democratic organizations—that shape this economy.
This short Response focuses on the potential of this second category of institutions to achieve a more equitable distribution of the economic benefits of the sharing economy. While I agree that much can be gained from a more critical reflection on the nature of the institutions that shape the sharing economy, I harbor skepticism regarding the current vitality and future potential of these alternative institutions. I first explore how intermediary institutions might strengthen the position of workers in the sharing economy. I then express a few hesitations regarding the prospects of intermediary institutions to adequately counterbalance the technological platforms that dominate the sharing economy. Finally, I offer suggestions for how, by drawing on discussions of the role of institutions in other areas of legal doctrine; an “institutional turn” in thinking about the sharing economy might inform both legal scholarship and regulation.