Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
16 August 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 4:05am

Unconditional income and republican freedom

Stuart White on "social democracy plus".

By Jonathan Derbyshire

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the first part of Edward Lewis’s interview with the political theorist Stuart White over at the New Left Project. Lewis has now posted the second instalment of the conversation. The first part dealt with the question what it is political philosophers and theorists do exactly. White suggested their stock-in-trade was the examination of the concepts that play a central role in political debate and deliberation – equality, liberty, justice and so on. The second part of the interview deals with a specific proposal put forward by civic or democratic republican thinkers like White: the idea of a basic unconditional income. White defends the notion in terms of the republican idea of freedom as “non-domination” (a conception that derives from the work of the political philosopher Philip Pettit):

If you want something that’s going to empower people in the labour market so that they can escape potentially dominating employers, or escape family relationships in which they’re potentially dominated, then an unconditional basic income looks like a very good idea. . . . [B]y strengthening the position of the disadvantaged in the labour market it thereby precludes relationships of domination between employers and workers. Consider situations where an employer can say to a worker “Do what I or say or else”, where the “or else” is you’ll get the sack and then you’ll be starving on the street. With an unconditional basic income, employers can’t make those kind of threats, because if a worker loses the job then there’s still an income independent of the sale of labour power that he or she can fall back on. Even a relatively small basic income, if it’s saved and managed well, can give a worker a lot more independence in the labour market.

Read the whole thing here.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them