Is the Sharing Economy a Neo-Hippy Movement?

How did the hippy movement start, how is it going today, and what does this have to do with the sharing economy?

On what we can assume to have been a pretty hot day of August in 1969, hundreds of thousands of people descended onto Woodstock, on a farm property located in Bethel, New York. 

The hippy movement was at its peak. 

How did it start, how is it going today, and what does this have to do with the sharing economy?  

We plan to tackle this in the following paragraphs, so stay tuned if you’re curious to see our take on the matter. 

Once Upon a Time, There Was Peace & Love 

Humans don’t look back in anger, or at least not most of the time. If there’s one negative (-ish) emotion dominating us when we look into the past, it’s nostalgia. 

And nostalgia is, perhaps, what we all feel when we think of the hippy era — even those who didn’t actually live through those days. It might be the Woodstock stories, Forrest Gump, or just a general feeling that the 1960s shaped the future (and our present). 

Whatever it is, we almost invariably associate the hippies with a time of peace, love, and music. We also associate them with common living, sharing (anything from car rides to food), and idealistic views of how people could live together. 

As it frequently happens, though, things are almost never just black or white. And the fulmination of the 1960s most definitely wasn’t. Political turmoil, war, and an entire generation of people who “boomed” into the market — these are just some of the background colors the hippy era was built on. 

The Rise and Fall of the Hippies 

As 1969 was drawing to a close, so were the dreams of the hippies. 

December 6 is frequently dubbed as the day the joy of Woodstock died, when, at a Rolling Stones concert (the Altamont Free Concert) a girl was murdered. Much has been said about that moment, but we are not here to debate what truly happened. 

What is for certain is that the vibes of the 1960s were fading off, leaving room for the birth of Corporate America. 

Many continued to be true to their peace & love lifestyle. But the entire movement succumbed. LSD was legally banned, the Vietnam War slowly wound down, and the college kids that once packed the fields of that farm in Bethel, New York, went out to get jobs. 

The ideals of peace, love, and equality did not die out with the hippy movement. A couple of generations later, they were revived by Millennials, in new, technologized forms. 

We call it “The Sharing Economy” a.k.a. “The Access Economy” and we’ve managed to make it the kind of “thing” ready to revolutionize the world in ways both Baby Boomers and Woodstock-attending hippies would agree on. 

In other words, the last couple of decades have given birth to the “best of both worlds”: sharing and capitalism. 🎉

The Sharing Economy Meets the Internet 

Coincidence or not, the term “sharing economy” (or, to be more specific, “the economy of sharing”) was used for the first time towards the end of the 1970s, in an academic paper called Community Structure and Collaborative Consumption.  

What Marcus Felson and Joe L. Spaeth (dubbed to be the first ones to have used the term) couldn’t have foreseen, however, is how this little thing called “the internet” would soon take over the world and shape it in ways they couldn’t even fathom back then. 

How could they think of mobile phones that connect to the internet and allow us to call an Uber in a matter of seconds? And how could they even begin to imagine being able to put your house up for short-term rentals for the entire world to see (and access)? 

How could they have foreseen the rise of eBay and peer-to-peer consumerism, or how Netflix would build an entirely new way of Saturday night entertainment? 

And how, in the world, could they have seen the COVID-19 pandemic coming, locking everyone indoors, in front of screens that act as the sole connection to the outside world? 

The history of the Sharing Economy is still debated (and even the term itself is still up for debate). But if there’s one thing we can clearly see is that this type of “doing business” is here to stay. All the data shows it, as more and more businesses in the Access Economy take over the stage and win people’s hearts. 

In the end, what is there not to love about sharing, especially when it brings in a nice profit as well? If I have a skill or a product other people could use, why wouldn’t I lend it, temporarily, so that they can enjoy it too, without a major financial or time investment? The internet made it more possible than ever, and as we roll into the third decade of the third Millennium CE, we’re bound to see even more of these “Sharing Economy” things happening. 

Wink-wink, we’ve got something planned for that here at Simplr. 😉

Circling Back: Is the Access Economy the New Hippy Movement? 

On the surface at least, the hippy movement and the Sharing Economy are quite similar. They both rely on sharing — but where one is based on sharing for the sake of it, the other one is a for-profit paradigm. 

People and businesses in the Access Economy don’t share for free. You can’t ride an Uber like a hitchhiker in the ‘60s would’ve caught a ride to San Francisco. And you can’t live in someone’s home during your vacation, for free (unless you’re couch surfing, which is an entirely different debate). 

You pay for these services, just like you would pay for a cab or for a hotel room. The difference is that you pay to get these services not from other businesses (per se), but from other people. 

In many respects, the Sharing Economy could be viewed as the offspring between the ideals of the 1960s and capitalism. There is a sense of community to the Access Economy, as well as a very important “eco-friendly”, sustainable component to it, but unlike the hippy movement, this new paradigm admits that we all need jobs and money to live. 

Time has proven that society cannot revert to a pure “sharing and bartering” mechanism (like the one used by our Homo Sapiens ancestors). And plenty of stories have proved that economies that work in a closed system based on some sort of “forced equality” tend to, well, fail (we’re looking at you, socialist communism). 

Fortunately, time has also given us the chance to do this again — this time, taking into consideration the lessons of the past and adapting to the markets, technologies, and needs of a modern world. 

Three decades after eBay was founded, the Sharing Economy proves that it can work very well in pretty much every industry you can imagine. And this is just the beginning — because, as mentioned before, there’s data to show that this new paradigm is here to stay. 

Ready to join the movement?

Meet you there, flowers in your hair are optional.