The Struggle Against Institutions: Platform Market Creation and the State

Lilla Sparbanksfoajén Session 1: The Neoliberal Shift organized by Jonas Ljungberg and Erik Bengtsson


Pontus Blüme


Associated to the proliferation of platform capitalism, a strand of management and organisational literature came to attach to this development a theory of institutional entrepreneurship, and ascribed to the entrepreneurs the power to drive institutional change. Typically, Uber has been the platform in focus, and the way that the company managed to curb legislation and bend institutions governing labour markets for taxi drivers has been the empirical material to back it up. The conflict is described as one against institutional inertia, and the theory attempt to capture the process in which ‘embedded’ actors resist, and finally give in, to divergence.

Two things is underemphasised in this strand of theory, and in research of the platform economy more broadly. The first is the role of the state in the implementation of its markets. During the past ten years, the position of the Swedish government to gigwork and platform markets could best be characterised as ambivalent. As the status of workers are often times one of independently contracted labour, the position of the federation of trade unions has been one of similar indecisiveness. At the same time, different levels of government has been assisting the implementation of a platform market logic under the pretext of job creation. Secondly, even though gig platforms share aspects of algorithmic management and the three-part labour relationship, they differ in whether they intervene and reshape markets, or commodify previously non-monetised aspects of societal life, something which qualitatively affect the form of resistance faced in the process.

This paper examines the tensions that followed from the establishment of four Swedish platform markets, from the 2013 launch of Uber, through Foodora and Tiptapp, to the conflicts in between the municipality of Stockholm and the establishment of ‘micromobility’ actors in 2019. Through court documents and the internal case files of public office, it aims to investigate the strategies of platform actors in navigating the ‘embedded resistance’ from their institutional environments, and the response to these strategies from different levels of the state.


No PDF available.