Uber’s April 2016 launch in Buenos Aires plunged the Argentine capital into a frenzied hysteria that engulfed courts of law, taxi drivers, bureaucrats, the press, the general public, and Argentina’s president himself. Economist and anthropologist Juan M. del Nido, who had arrived in the city six months earlier to research the taxi industry, suddenly found himself documenting the unprecedented upheaval in real time. Taxis vs. Uber examines the ensuing conflict from the perspective of the city’s globalist, culturally liberal middle class, showing how notions like monopoly, efficiency, innovation, competition, and freedom fueled claims that were often exaggerated, inconsistent, unverifiable, or plainly false, but that shaped the experience of the conflict such that taxi drivers’ stakes in it were no longer merely disputed but progressively written off, pathologized, and explained away.
This first book-length study of the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the arrival of a major platform economy to a metropolitan capital considers how the clash between Uber and the traditional taxi industry played out in courtrooms, in the press, and on the street. Looking to court cases, the politics of taxi licenses, social media campaigns, telecommunications infrastructure, public protests, and Uber’s own promotional materials, del Nido examines the emergence of “post-political reasoning”: an increasingly common way in which societies neutralize disagreement, shaping how we understand what we can even legitimately argue about and how.
“This beautifully written account of the dramatic arrival of Uber in Buenos Aires poses fundamental questions about public life and politics in the technologized spaces of contemporary capitalism. Juan M. del Nido’s vivid ethnography shows how the rhetorical resources of late capitalism can produce a world that appears beyond politics, as fairness and efficiency become problems to be addressed by the deployment of algorithms rather than debate and contestation.”
—Penny Harvey, University of Manchester
“This timely and important book opens up a refreshing analytical lens on questions of class and the nature of the political that are truly at stake in contemporary Argentina. Theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically evocative, it will be invaluable to any reader interested in the politics of new economic formations in the region and beyond.”
—Sian Lazar, University of Cambridge
“We all know Uber exists only on the back of the taxi industry’s long historical efforts to acclimatize the middle class to entering cars driven by strangers.JuanM. delNidoshows us in his imaginative ethnography that this is only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the changes Uber brings.He persuasively demonstrates how crucial it is to understand the legal and practical rubrics shaping the working lives of taxi cab drivers—that Uber hopes to disrupt—as well as the middle-class economic logics that Uber appeals to.”
—Ilana Gershon, Indiana University
“This is an impressive contribution to analyses of the origins and consequences of late-capitalist rhetoric, everyday ethics, and how societal affects and discourses attach themselves to new technology.”
—Bronwyn Frey, Anthropology Book Forum
“del Nido’s contributions in this book go far beyond the conflict between these two industries, and postpolitical reasoning is widely applicable in thinking about how new innovations are legitimized. Moreover, del Nido skillfully demonstrates the importance of studying something as intricate and complex as reasoning itself, and doing so ethnographically, by tracing how nonexperts make sense of economic and political processes. As new technological innovations continue to penetrate our society, it is vital we understand how they are legitimized, especially if we want to have the grammar to challenge them in any meaningful way.”
—Annika Pinch, H-Sci-Med-Tech