Biopolitical platforms: the perverse virtues of digital labour

Karen Gregory, Jathan Sadowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


By mediating everyday activities, social interactions, and economic transactions, digital platforms play an increasingly dominant role in contemporary capitalism. These platforms have excelled at extracting value from assets and labour that have been deemed un(der)productive. While the burgeoning literature on platform capitalism and digital labour has focused on these systems of value extraction, there has been much less attention on how platforms have also undertaken a project of subject formation and thereby capital development. By theorising empirical research with people who work as food delivery workers for Deliveroo, we show how platforms, specifically those that provide services in urban places, encourage, even require, workers to develop a form of human capital based on three perverse virtues that make them more productive, more desirable workers: flexibility, vitality, and legibility. We then analyse the operations and implications of biopolitical platforms—by which we mean platforms that create and administer a biopolitical governance regime in order to cultivate and accumulate capital, both human and data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-674
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021


  • biopolitics
  • deliveroo
  • digital labour
  • Digital platforms
  • human capital

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