If universal basic income is the answer, what is the question?

Jeff Manza

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Universal basic income (UBI) has become the rallying cry for a growing international movement seeking redistribution and equality through direct cash payments by governments to all its citizens. Advocates have promoted UBI on multiple grounds: efficiency, equality, as an alternative to traditional anti-poverty aid programs in very poor countries, or even as the foundation for small “c” communist societies. Numerous small-scale experiments of cash transfers have been conducted across the globe purporting to test UBI’s plausibility. In this essay, I explore the multiple agendas of UBI, and consider whether recent scholarship suggests that it might provide a superior path to achieving the historical goals of the political left than that of social democracy and contemporary welfare states. I also raise questions about the political foundations of a movement seeking to end mandatory work, while noting the future possibility of massive job losses that might alter the social, economic, and political possibilities for UBI.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)625-639
    Number of pages15
    JournalTheory and Society
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 2023


    • Employment
    • Equality
    • Incomes
    • Politics
    • Postindustrial
    • Welfare

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science


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