PE Seminar Series | Unconditional Basic Income: progressive potentials and neoliberal traps

29 March, 2018
4:00pm - 6:00pm


Professor Erik Olin Wright


The idea of unconditional basic income occupies a peculiar place on the political and ideological landscape. Versions of UBI are being defended both by left-wing progressives like Guy Standing and by right-wing libertarians like Charles Murray. Both versions share a common idea: means-tested, targeted income transfer programs are replaced by an unconditional basic income given to all. Where they differ is in how generous is the proposed basic income, what range of programs would be eliminated when a UBI is introduced, and who precisely will be eligible for the UBI.

This talk will make four interconnected arguments in defense of the expansive, progressive version of Unconditional Basic Income: (1) An expansive UBI fits into a broader, long-term project of emancipatory social transformation. (2) It is economically feasible within contemporary capitalist economies; the obstacles to a progressive UBI are primarily political, not economic. (3) Even though an expansive UBI can contribute to the long-run erosion of the dominance of capitalism, it also can help solve certain immediate problems internal to a capitalist economy. This is what makes it a potentially achievable reform. (4) It is therefore worthwhile putting the progressive UBI on the political agenda of the left and struggling to discredit the neoliberal version.


Location: New Law LT104, New Law Annex, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney