Benjamin Shestakofsky, Ph.D.

Author headshot

Assistant Professor of Sociology


McNeil 228


Ph.D. Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 2018
M.A. Sociology, University of California, Berkeley 2014
B.A. Sociology and American Studies, Wesleyan University, 2005

Research Interests

Benjamin Shestakofsky’s research centers on how digital technologies are affecting work and employment, organizations, and economic exchange.

His new book, Behind the Startup: How Venture Capital Shapes Work, Innovation, and Inequality, investigates the role of financiers in shaping our technological future. The book draws on 19 months of participant-observation research to examine how investors’ demand for rapid growth created organizational problems that managers solved by combining high-tech systems with low-wage human labor. The book shows how the burdens imposed on startups by venture capital—as well as the benefits and costs of “moving fast and breaking things”—are unevenly distributed across a company’s workforce and customers. With its focus on the financialization of innovation, Behind the Startup explains how the gains generated by tech startups are funneled into the pockets of a small cadre of elite investors and entrepreneurs. To promote innovation that benefits the many rather than the few, Shestakofsky argues that we should focus less on fixing the technology and more on changing the financial infrastructure that supports it. The book will be published in March 2024 by the University of California Press.

Articles based on this project have been awarded the 2019 W. Richard Scott Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the ASA's Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, and the 2021 Star-Nelkin Paper Award from the ASA's Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology. Benjamin's recent and ongoing projects examine the sociology of artificial intelligence; how organizations can improve conditions for the hidden workers who support AI systems; the governance of digital platforms; power and positionality in organizational ethnography; and the relationship between venture capital, organizational cultures, and organizational change.

Benjamin’s research has been supported by the Upjohn Institute, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. His work has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, National Public Radio, Financial Times, Fast Company, Axios, and in a publication of the World Economic Forum.

Selected Publications

B. Shestakofsky. Forthcoming. "Cleaning Up Data Work: Meaning, Morality, and Inequality in a Tech Startup." Big Data & Society.

B. Shestakofsky. 2024. Behind the Startup: How Venture Capital Shapes Work, Innovation, and Inequality. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

K. Joyce, L. Smith-Doerr, S. Alegria, S. Bell, T. Cruz, S. Hoffman, S. Umoja Noble, and B. Shestakofsky. 2021. “Toward a Sociology of Artificial Intelligence: A Call for Research on Inequalities and Structural Change.” Socius 7:1-11.

B. Shestakofsky and S. Kelkar. 2020. “Making Platforms Work: Relationship Labor and the Management of Publics.” Theory and Society 49:863-896.

B. Shestakofsky. 2017. "Working Algorithms: Software Automation and the Future of Work." Work and Occupations 44(4):376-423.

CV (file)