cover of book

Spent behind the Wheel: Drivers' Labor in the Uber Economy
by Julietta Hua and Kasturi Ray
University of Minnesota Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-1-5179-1184-3 | Paper: 978-1-5179-1185-0
Library of Congress Classification HE5620.R53H83 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 388.413212


Exploring professional passenger driving and the gig economy through feminist theories of labor

Are taxi drivers in today’s era of the ride-hail app performing care work akin to domestic and household labor? So argue the authors of Spent behind the Wheel. Bringing together sociological and legal perspectives with feminist theoretical insights, Julietta Hua and Kasturi Ray examine the case study of contemporary professional passenger driving in the United States. On the one hand, they show, the rise of the gig economy has brought new attention to the industry of professional passenger driving. On the other hand, the vulnerabilities that professional drivers experience remain hidden. 

Drawing on interviews with drivers, labor organizers, and members of licensing commissions, as well as case law and other published resources, Hua and Ray argue that working for ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft shares similarities with driving for taxi companies in the impact on driver lives. Lyft and Uber sell the idea of industry disruption, but in fact they entrench long-standing modes of extracting the reproductive labor of their drivers for the benefit of consumer lives. Reproductive labor—conventionally understood as feminized labor—is extracted, but masked, behind the masculinized, racialized bodies of drivers. Professional driving is thus best understood alongside domestic and other gendered service work as reproductive labors devalued and often demonetized to benefit the national economy. 

Spent behind the Wheel is a must for readers interested in critical studies of technological change and the gig economy, showing how drivers’ capacities are drained for the benefit of riders, corporations, and the maintenance of the racial state. 

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