Handbook of the Sharing Economy
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Handbook of the Sharing Economy

Edited by Russell W. Belk, Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi

With the radical growth in the ubiquity of digital platforms, the sharing economy is here to stay. This Handbook explores the nature and direction of the sharing economy, interrogating its key dynamics and evolution over the past decade and critiquing its effect on society.
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Chapter 4: The who and what of sharing: a phenomenological view

Wolfgang Suetzl


This chapter examines the concept of sharing from a phenomenological perspective, drawing on philosophies of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Luc Nancy, as well as contemporary critical theory. Phenomenological enquiry unfolds from common and largely unnoticed everyday experience, a description that has also been applied to sharing. The author asks what kind of thing sharing is (the “what” of sharing), and who a sharer becomes through sharing (the “who” of sharing). In doing so he describes sharing as a limit of exchange. It is in place before exchange can occur and, remaining rooted in informal everyday practice, it resists the value form required by an exchange economy. On the subjective level, sharing gives rise to a contiguous relationship among sharers, who lose individuality while gaining “condividuality.” The gain created through sharing therefore does not return to an individual and remains communal. However, the exchange economy, of which sharing economy as an industry is part, relies on individual subjectivity and profitability. In both areas, the “what” and the “who,” phenomenological concept of sharing is at odds with the requirements of an economy of exchange, giving rise to uncertainty and conflicting interpretations regarding the relationship between “sharing” and “economy” in the sharing economy.

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