Disrupting D.C.: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City

A panoramic account of the urban politics and deep social divisions that gave rise to Uber


Published (US):
Aug 15, 2023
Published (UK):
Oct 10, 2023
5.5 x 8.5 in.
6 b/w illus. 1 table. 4 maps.
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The first city to fight back against Uber, Washington, D.C., was also the first city where such resistance was defeated. It was here that the company created a playbook for how to deal with intransigent regulators and to win in the realm of local politics. The city already serves as the nation’s capital. Now, D.C. is also the blueprint for how Uber conquered cities around the world—and explains why so many embraced the company with open arms.

Drawing on interviews with gig workers, policymakers, Uber lobbyists, and community organizers, Disrupting D.C. demonstrates that many share the blame for lowering the nation’s hopes and dreams for what its cities could be. In a sea of broken transit, underemployment, and racial polarization, Uber offered a lifeline. But at what cost?

This is not the story of one company and one city. Instead, Disrupting D.C. offers a 360-degree view of an urban America in crisis. Uber arrived promising a new future for workers, residents, policymakers, and others. Ultimately, Uber’s success and growth was never a sign of urban strength or innovation but a sign of urban weakness and low expectations about what city politics can achieve. Understanding why Uber rose reveals just how far the rest of us have fallen.

Ideas Podcast: How Uber disrupted Washington, D.C.

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Awards and Recognition

  • A Bloomberg Book About Cities We Read
  • A LA Times Best Tech Book
  • Winner of the PROSE Award in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology, Association of American Publishers