Big tech platforms’ growth increased extraordinarily after the 2007/8 crisis on the base of a new wave of labour digitalisation. The covid-19 pandemic could be addressed as the second event that prompted the scalation of these processes, including the digitalisation of our social and working life.
Big tech platforms deploy all their power, particularly in the economic sphere. Indeed, they grew up in many cases moving through the empty spaces of existing legislative codes, and often disintermediate labour collective contracts of bargaining institutions. This poses serious challenges to workers’ individual and collective rights. States and the European Union have serious difficulties in exercising effective mediation or control over these big transnational and digital corporations.
The power of digital platforms is articulated across the economic, political and cultural domains; they clearly deploy hegemonic tendencies: economically, they are global actors, operating in a highly financialized environment and fostering the accumulation of wealth. Politically, they tend to impose their rules even on states and develop specific practices of government. Culturally, they do not simply influence public opinion, but they rather produce their own public spheres. Additionally, they constantly produce a narrative of themselves through different activities and advertisements, about the positive and appealing impact of digital technologies, the usability of e-commerce, the flexibility of platform labour, and the social benefits these corporations spread. The risk is to reduce the public debate to a flat and passive endorsement, while policymakers have difficulties orienting their regulatory activities.
Given this landscape, the choice is between the acceptance of capitalism in which either corporations substitute for the role of states and politics, o create a new model of capitalism in which corporate power is re-embedded in physiological and legitimized political processes. This is the challenge we are willing to accept.