Legal Affordances in Global Wealth Chains: How Platform Firms Use Legal and Spatial Scaling

Maj Grasten, Leonard Seabrooke*, Duncan Wigan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

293 Downloads (Pure)


Firms can use legal and spatial scaling to increase their control and capacity to exploit assets. Here we examine how platform firms, like AirBnB, Uber, and Bird, scale their operations through global wealth chains. Their use of law is to maximize wealth creation and protection, while their services use local spaces to extract value from established property, labor, and public thoroughfares. We examine how such ‘networked accumulation’ platform firms use legal and spatial scaling through legal affordances. This includes opportunities for absences, ambiguities and arbitrage that are realized via multi and inter-scalar strategies and produce variegation. Our analysis draws on legal documents, as well as interviews, from Barcelona and San Francisco. The article contributes with a model of how platform firms use legal and spatial scaling, as well as how activists can challenge their operations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1062-1079
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 19. November 2021

This research received funding from the European Research Council project #694943-CORPLINK.


  • Platforms firms
  • Global wealth chains
  • Uber
  • AirBnB
  • Labor
  • Housing
  • Public thoroughfares
  • Social activism

Cite this