Disrupting Regulation, Regulating Disruption: The Politics of Uber in the United States

Perspectives on Politics (Forthcoming)

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 280

31 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 5 Apr 2018

Ruth Berins Collier

University of California, Berkeley

V.B. Dubal

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Christopher Carter

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: March 22, 2018

Abstract

Platform companies disrupt not only the economic sectors they enter, but also the regulatory regimes that govern those sectors. We examine Uber in the United States as a case of regulating this disruption in different arenas: cities, state legislatures, and judicial venues. We find that the politics of Uber regulation does not conform to existing models of regulation. We describe instead a pattern of disrupted regulation, characterized by a consistent challenger-incumbent cleavage, in two steps. First, an existing regulatory regime is not deregulated but successfully disregarded by a new entrant. Second, the politics of subsequently regulating the challenger leads to a dual regulatory regime. In the case of Uber, disrupted regulation takes the form of challenger capture, an elitedriven pattern, in which the challenger has largely prevailed. It is further characterized by the surrogate representation of dispersed actors—customers and drivers—who do not have autonomous power and who rely instead on alignment with the challenger and incumbent. In its surrogate capacity in city and state regulation, Uber has frequently mobilized large numbers of customers and drivers to lobby for policy outcomes that allow it to continue to provide service on terms it finds acceptable. Because drivers have reaped less advantage from these alignments, labor issues have been taken up in judicial venues, again primarily by surrogates (usually plaintiffs’ attorneys) but to date have not been successful.

Keywords: platform regulation, Uber, sharing economy, disruption

Suggested Citation

Collier, Ruth Berins and Dubal, V.B. and Carter, Christopher, Disrupting Regulation, Regulating Disruption: The Politics of Uber in the United States (March 22, 2018). Perspectives on Politics (Forthcoming); UC Hastings Research Paper No. 280. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147296

Ruth Berins Collier

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Veena Dubal (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Christopher Carter

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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