The Sharing Economy as a Means to Urban Commoning

Comparative Law Review, Volume 7, Issue 1 (2016)

22 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2018

See all articles by Guido Smorto

Guido Smorto

University of Palermo - School of Law

Date Written: November 2016


Sharing economy and urban commons are inherently intertwined. New technologies and business models for the production and consumption of goods and services are rapidly transforming cities across the world in many ways: carsharing, ridesharing, short-term rentals, shared housing and workspaces. These not only put into question how urban transportation and tourist accommodation are planned, but also disrupt traditional local services, influence housing affordability and redesigning city spaces, thus often making existing local rules obsolete. These profound changes raise many issues. What kind of city is molded by peer-to-peer activities? Is a sharing economy the way to a commons-based urban economy? And what kind of rules are required, if any?

This paper aims at examining the delicate relationship between a sharing economy and urban commons and investigating how regulation can affect it. While part of the current debate is sometimes polarized between devotees and decriers of peer-to-peer economic activities, many observers emphasize their multifaceted effects. New technologies are potentially powerful tools for sustainable economic models based on genuine sharing and cooperation, permitting optimum use of existing resources and reinforcing social networks. However, many of these phenomena are characterized by conflicting tendencies. Elinor Ostrom’s empirical findings about the design principles that can lead towards a successful common regime give a great importance to the existence of rules in accordance with local circumstances and to a participative decision process. Assuming the wide variety of peer-to-peer economic models and the significant differences from city to city, we should appreciate, on a case-by-case basis, how these practices impact on local economic growth, democratize access to goods and services, foster sustainable urban development, influence the urban environment and impact on job creation and labor conditions, and we should identify the distributive consequences on the city and its inhabitants (underserved neighborhoods, people with disabilities, low-income communities). On that note, in order to instigate a truly commons- based urban economy it is critical to identify pros and cons of these practices in a given milieu and to generate distinct strategies accordingly, resisting any temptation of “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

Keywords: Sharing Economy, Commons, Urban Studies

JEL Classification: K10, K20, K32

Suggested Citation

Smorto, Guido, The Sharing Economy as a Means to Urban Commoning (November 2016). Comparative Law Review, Volume 7, Issue 1 (2016) , Available at SSRN:

Guido Smorto (Contact Author)

University of Palermo - School of Law ( email )

Piazza Bologni, 8
Palermo, 90134

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