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FEPS Young Academics Network: “Beyond Basic Income: Overcoming the Crisis of Social Democracy?”

Three members of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) Young Academic Network — Frederick Harry Pitts, Lorena Lombardozzi, and Neil Warner — have published a study on basic income, entitled “Beyond Basic Income: Overcoming the Crisis of Social Democracy?”

The full paper can be read and downloaded here.



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.


About the Authors

Frederick Harry Pitts holds a PhD from the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, and is currently a Lecturer in Management at the University of Bristol. His research interests lie in the sociology of work and political economics, with specializations in the creative industries and the future of work.

Lorena Lombardozzi is a graduate student at SOAS University of London, where she holds an MSc in Political Economy of Development. Her dissertation research concerns agricultural commercialization in Uzbekistan’s cotton-food system and its nutritional impacts.

Neil Warner is a postgraduate researcher in the Department of History at Trinity College Dublin, studying perspectives on unemployment and the British Labour Party in the late 20th century.

FEPS is the first progressive think tank to operate at a European level. It has previously supported discussion of universal basic income, convening a panel discussion on the topic in Brussels in February 2016 as part of its Next Social Europe lunch debate series.

The FEPS Young Academics Network, established in March 2009, currently consists of over 50 PhD candidates and recent PhD recipients from a range of disciplines.

Photo: “Unemployment Wall” CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Luis Colás

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 500 articles.

I was a statistician, then a philosopher, then a journalist for a certain Basic Income News, and I have never been the sort to wed myself to any specific position or career path. (I have always chosen to remain in the precariat for this reason: my sense of duty is strong enough that I’d risk imperiling my own self-development if I were to accept a permanent position.) If you want to learn more about what I’m about, and how I see my ideal roles in the basic income community going forth, read the “cover letter” of sorts that is my Patreon homepage (updated November 2017).

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