Ruth Berins Collier, V.B. Dubal, and Christopher L. Carter.
Disrupting Regulation, Regulating Disruption: The Politics of Uber in the United States.
Perspectives on Politics.
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 elite driven
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.