Chained to the App: German Bike Couriers Riding into Digital Capitalism

  • Jasmin Schreyer Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Keywords: platform capitalism, platform cooperativism, algorithmic management, riders’ resistance, co-determination, collective management


In the digital age of platformization and digital capitalism, this study demonstrates the significant role of institutionalized relationships in influencing autonomy-control dynamics within platform companies. By contrasting multinational food delivery corporations with local cooperative courier services in Germany, we find that algorithmic management centralizes control in commercial platforms, thereby limiting worker autonomy. In contrast, cooperative models prioritize communication, trust, and self-determination. These findings underscore that works councils and collective representation of interests serve as countervailing powers in commercial platforms, actively advocating for worker protections. In summary, this study highlights the pivotal role of institutionalized relationships in shaping the evolving landscape of work, emphasizing their significance in achieving a more equitable and humane work environment.

Author Biography

Jasmin Schreyer, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Jasmin Schreyer: 2020-2023 Researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Chair of Technology, Work, Society, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. She is working in the coordination project of the DFG Priority Program: The Digitalisation of Working Worlds. From 2017-2020 she was an academic assistant at the Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Organisational and Innovation Sociology, University of Stuttgart; working in a Hans-Boeckler Foundation project with the title: Digital Project Communities as Innovation Incubators.

Critical Perspectives on Digital Capitalism 2: Digital Labour and Class