PDW 02: Controversies and Legitimation of the Sharing Economy

Glen Whelan
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Michael Etter
Cass Business School, City University London, United Kingdom
Christian Fieseler
Norwegian Business School, Norway

Call for Applications


Fleura Bhardi, Cass Business School, United Kingdom
Itziar Castelló, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain
Mikkel Flyverbom, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Jean-Pascal Gond, Cass Business School, United Kingdom
Vadim Grinevich, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Indre Maurer, Georg August University Göttingen, Germany
Achim Oberg, WU Vienna, Austria
Robert Phillips, University of Richmond, USA

This rise of the sharing economy has recently created heated public debates around various social issues, such as privacy, employee rights, working culture, exploitation, trust, regulation, distribution of wealth, and impacts on communities and society (e.g., Irani, 2015; Scholz, 2013; Bergvall‐Kåreborn & Howcroft, 2014; Slee, 2016; Eckhardt & Bardhi, 2015). For some observers, the sharing economy has the potential to evolve into a more democratic and participatory economic model that can solve pressing societal and environmental issues and create more equal societies (Belk, 2010; Belk, 2007; Botsman & Roger, 2010; ). For others, the sharing economy is mutating into a neo-liberal nightmare that creates unregulated, exploitative grey markets and introduces a new digital feudalism (Rosenblat & Stark, 2015; Moore & Robinson, 2015; Slee, 2016; Beverungen, Bohm, & Land, 2015).
The controversies surrounding the sharing economy take place in many arenas and involve various actors, such as lobbyist, social activists, and environmentalists that participate in discursive struggles over the legitimacy of the sharing economy, and that often play out online (Whelan et al., 2013; Schultz et al., 2013; Etter et al., forthcoming). It is therefore of interest to ask how controversies evolve and how the process of legitimation occurs with regard to different issues, communication tactics (Castello, Etter, Nielsen, 2016), political philosophies (Whelan, 2012), justification strategies (Whelan & Gond, forthcoming), and so on.
In connection with sub-theme 29 on “Justifying the Organization: Dealing with Conflicting Economies of Worth and Legitimacy Struggles “ and with sub-theme 38 on "Innovations and New Forms of Organizing in Digitalized Public Space" this PDW aims to offer a ‘hands-on’ and open space to discuss the controversies and legitimation of the sharing economy.

In particular, we welcome papers that address following questions among others:

  • What are the ideological struggles with regards to the sharing economy and its broader and specific societal impact?

  • How do organizations of the sharing economy organize, manage, and communicate CSR? What justification tactics, or communicative strategies, are used to justify or critique the sharing economy?

  • How are potential disputes handled and how do various actors, such as workers, organize? What constitutes meaningful labour and identification in the sharing economy? How inclusive or exclusive is the sharing economy (digital divides)?

  • What role does technology (e.g. algorithms) play in the legitimation of the sharing economy?

  • How may the sharing economy be legitimized through regulation? Can the sharing economy help solve public good problems and social issues?


The workshop will be structured in two main parts. In the first part, senior scholars will reflect on the phenomenon of the sharing economy and the controversies surrounding it. They will discuss theories, methods and empirical settings that are relevant for studying the controversies and legitimation of the sharing economy. In the second part, participants will have the possibility to discuss and develop their working papers with senior scholars in a workshop setting. Facilitators will be assigned to working papers and discuss the articles in small groups.
Please note that this workshop is linked to a Call for Papers for a Special Issue on “Sharing Economy, Sharing Responsibility? CSR in the Digital Economy” by the Journal of Business Ethics. Paper submitters can use the workshop to receive in-depth feedback on how they can further develop their short papers for submission to the Special Issue (or other forms of publication). The detailed Call for Papers can be found on the journal’s website. However, acceptance for presentation at the PDW does not guarantee acceptance of the paper for publication in Journal of Business Ethics.



We invite working papers (conceptual or empirical) that seek to make new and innovative contributions to the understanding of the controversies and legitimation of the sharing economy, and that push forward theoretical, empirical, and/or methodological frontiers, in business ethics, business and society, and organization scholarship.
Please submit your application + paper – via the EGOS website! – as a single document (.doc, .docx or .pdf file) that includes:

  • On the first page: a short letter of application containing full details of name, address (postal address, phone and email), affiliation (date of PhD completion for early career scholars), and a statement of why you consider it valuable to attend the workshop.

  • A draft/working paper (between 800 and 1,000 words, incl. text, references, figures & tables).




  • Belk, R. (2007): “Why not share rather than own?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 611 (1), 126–140.

  • Belk, R. (2010): “Sharing.” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (5), 715–734.

  • Bergvall‐Kåreborn, B., & Howcroft, D. (2014): “Amazon Mechanical Turk and the commodification of labour.” New Technology, Work and Employment, 29(3), 213–223.

  • Beverungen, A., Bohm, S., & Land, C. (2015): “Free Labour, Social Media, Management: Challenging Marxist Organization Studies.” Organization Studies, 36 (4), 473–489.

  • Botsman, R., & Rogers, R. (2010): What’s Mine Is Yours. New York: Harper Business.

  • Eckhardt, G.M., & Bardhi, F. (2015): “The sharing economy isn’t about sharing at all.” Harvard Business Review, 28.

  • Etter, M., Colleoni, E., Illia, L., Meggiorin, K., & D’Eugenio, A. (forthcoming): “Measuring Organizational Legitimacy in Social Media: Assessing Citizens’ Judgments with Sentiment Analysis.” Business and Society.

  • Irani, L. (2015): “The cultural work of microwork.” New Media & Society, 17 (5), 720–739.

  • Moore, P., & Robinson, A. (2015). “The quantified self: What counts in the neoliberal workplace.” New Media & Society, 1461444815604328.

  • Rosenblat, A., & Stark, L. (2015): Uber's Drivers: Information Asymmetries and Control in Dynamic Work. Available at SSRN 2686227.

  • Scholz, T. (ed.) (2013): Digital Labor. The Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge.

  • Schultz, F., Castelló, I., & Morsing, M. (2013): “The construction of corporate social responsibility in network societies: A communication view.” Journal of Business Ethics, 115 (4), 681–692.

  • Slee, T. (2016): What’s Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy. New York: OR Books.

  • Sundararajan, A. (2016): The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Whelan, G., & Gond, J.-P. (forthcoming): “Meat Your Enemy: Animal Rights, Alignment and Radical Change.” Journal of Management Inquiry.

  • Whelan, G. (2012): “The political perspective of corporate social responsibility: A critical research agenda.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 22 (4), 709–737.

  • Whelan, G., Moon, J., & Grant, B. (2013): “Corporations and citizenship arenas in the age of social media.” Journal of Business Ethics, 118 (4), 777–790.

Glen Whelan is Governing Responsible Business Fellow at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and Social Media Editor for the ‘Journal of Business Ethics’. His research interests relate to moral and political philosophy and organization and social theory. He has a long standing interest in the political and moral influence of large multinational corporations, and in macro level considerations of social change. Much of Glen’s current work relates to the Internet and high-technology, and to the influence of Google/Alphabet in particular.
Michael Etter is Marie Curie Research Fellow at the ETHOS Center for Responsible Enterprise at Cass Business School of the City University London, UK. His interest lies in the ways organizations communicate CSR and participate in the co-construction of organizational legitimacy. Furthermore, he studies how organizations adopt new ICT, for example, through employee guidelines. He is a holder of several prestigious grants, such as the Carlsberg Foundation Postdoctoral Grant and the Marie Curie Research Fellow Grant.
Christian Fieseler is Professor at Norwegian Business School BI, Norway. His research interests center on organizational identity, corporate social responsibility and computer-mediated-communication. His research is focused on the question how individuals and organizations adapt to the shift brought by new, social media, and how to design participative and inclusive spaces in this new media regime. In this field, Christian has over the last few years, worked extensively on unemployment and technology and new working modes, both with private corporations and governmental organizations, such as the Norwegian Research Council and the European Union.