The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death


In this piece for The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino discusses how the gig economy driven by apps such as Uber and Lyft leads employees to overwork themselves at the expense of their health and safety.

“At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.”


  1. You Don’t Own Your Home and Never Will

    To live the “American dream” You have to work yourself to death because the government and insurance industry are always on your back and in your pockets.

    Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of the DMV (Department of motorist extortion) and the insurance industry that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of the $10,000 tax bill on that small house…

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    • I would add the general and increasing ripoff of wage earners in order to flow maximum wealth to those already ridiculously wealthy. Since the Reagan Administration, productivity has massively increased while real wages have remained stagnant. The middle class shrinks, the super wealthy own more and more, and no one wants to do anything except admire those who manage to survive the deteriorating conditions that pass for “normal.”

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      • 1% of the United States population owns 40% of the wealth in this country. That is outrageous. Let’s reign in capitalism with legislation that protects the worker.

        I was proudly with 700 social workers today at Boston statehouse and advocating for raising minimum wage to $15/hour as well as paid Family Medical Leave. Raise Up, a nonprofit organization also advocating for those making over $1 million a year to pay to help pay for transportation and higher education costs. Single payer legislation is on its way. Please get to know your state senators and representatives through emails, calls and in person discussions. They are there to serve us. Democracy works if citizens educate themselves and get involved.

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