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STIAS Lecture Series 2019: Kathleen Thelen – Regulating Uber: The Politics of the Platform Economy in the United States and Europe

Public Event, STIAS Public Lectures Series

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Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Immediate Past President of the American Political Science Association and STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title:

Regulating Uber: The Politics of the Platform Economy in the United States and Europe


This talk uses the case of the transportation network company Uber as a lens to explore the comparative political economy of the platform economy in Europe and the United States. Within the advanced capitalist world, different countries have responded in wildly different ways to this new service, from welcome embrace and accommodating regulatory adjustments to complete rejection and legal bans. I focus on Uber’s arrival and reception in the United States, Germany, and Sweden, documenting three very different responses to this disruptive new actor. I show that the specific regulatory conflicts that Uber provoked in each of these countries drove differences in the actors who became involved and in the coalitional alignments that mobilized around the specific flashpoints that Uber provoked. These differences account for the divergent regulatory responses we observe cross-nationally. I close with some observations about the role of consumers in the politics surrounding the platform business model in the United States and beyond.

Kathleen Thelen is Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT and Immediate Past President of the American Political Science Association.

Her work focuses on the origins and evolution of political-economic institutions in the rich democracies. She is the author, among others, of Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity (2014) and How Institutions Evolve (2004), and co-editor of Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (with James Mahoney, 2015), and Beyond Continuity (with Wolfgang Streeck, 2005). Her awards include the Barrington Moore Book Prize (2015), the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSR (2005), the Mattei Dogan Award for Comparative Research (2006), and the Max Planck Research Award (2003). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 2009. She was awarded honorary degrees at the Free University of Amsterdam (2013), the London School of Economics (2017), the European University Institute in Florence (2018), and the University of Copenhagen (2018).

Thelen has served as Chair of the Council for European Studies and as President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics.  Thelen is General Editor, along with Eric Wibbels, of the Cambridge University Press Series in Comparative Politics, and a permanent external member of the Max Planck Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung in Cologne, Germany.

Date and time

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

13:00 – 14:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


Adam Small Theatre Seminar Room

15 Victoria St, Stellenbosch Central

Related to this event




This project is about “digital capitalism,” and more specifically, the emergence of a new “gig” economy associated with the rise of new “platform” business models such as Uber, Upwork, TaskRabbit,...


Journal Article

Culpepper, Pepper D., and Kathleen Thelen. 2019. Are We All Amazon Primed? Consumers and the Politics of Platform Power. Comparative Political Studies, 001041401985268.


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