Beyond Basic Income: Overcoming the Crisis of Social Democracy?




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Across Europe, a crisis of social democracy prevails. Deindustrialisation precipitates a breakdown of the communities, institutions and interests that held the social democratic and labour movements together. A collapse in everyday life passes over into a steady decline in the electoral realm. Elsewhere, a crisis of social reproduction ensues. The relationship between the wage and subsistence weakens, public services face cutbacks and a generalised dispossession of people from the commons continues apace. This triple crisis- of the society of work, social reproduction and social democracy- is a triple crisis of the social. The universal basic income (UBI) is suggested by many as a means by which the social synthesis can be pieced back together. In this paper we explore whether or not UBI lives up to the claims made for its implementation, and to what extent it addresses these three crises. We ultimately pose the question whether UBI offers a solution to the crisis of social democracy, and whether, on this basis, European social democrats should pursue the policy as a central demand of a new electoral offer. We conclude that the policy cannot be suggested as a solution to the crises of work and social reproduction, at least not without being complemented by a range of other measures. A suite of reforms could strengthen its impact and ensure it is used to nurture and preserve positive social relations that reflect social democratic ideas, rather than contrary outcomes implied in alternative visions of the UBI proposed from both right and left of the political spectrum.

By Frederick Harry Pitts, Lorena Lombardozzi and Neil Warner

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Photo: Kunst Bilder