Communities Versus Platforms: The Paradox in the Body of the Collaborative Economy

François-Xavier De Vaujany*, Aurélie Leclercq-Vandelannoitte, Robin Holt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Communities and platforms pervade all aspects of the collaborative economy. Yet, they exist in apparent tension. The collaborative economy is grounded in communities. These are typically characterized by isonomic relations, in which the singularity of members finds its distinctiveness in being woven into mutual, collective endeavor. Yet, the collaborative economy also entails digital platforms organized through largely heteronomic relations in which employees and users are configured as isolate, useful, interchangeable, and flexible “units.” As such, communities and platforms are traditionally framed as separate from, and in contradiction to, one another. There is, it seems a paradox at the heart of the collaborative economy. Yet, inspired by the work of Merleau-Ponty, we argue the expression, embodiment, and eventfulness characterizing the collaborative economy show communities and platforms being constituted by one another. We conclude that the paradox, far from being a condition of opposition and dialectical tension requiring managed resolution, is a generative organizational process.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)450-467
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 28. February 2019


  • Community
  • Platform
  • Platform capitalism
  • Paradox
  • Chiasm
  • Organization
  • Phenomenology
  • Technology
  • Digital
  • Collaborative economy

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