From Post-Work to Post-Capitalism? Discussing the Basic Income and Struggles for Alternative Forms of Social Reproduction

Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Frederick Harry Pitts

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This paper contests the suggestion that the automation of production and the provision of a basic income potentiate the transition from a post-work to a postcapitalist society. This vista misses how, at one end, capitalist work is preconditioned by a historically-specific set of antagonistic social relations of constrained social reproduction, and, at the other, determined by the specific social forms its results assume in commodity exchange and the constituted form of the nation-state. The paper argues that the transitional demands of automation and a basic income may therefore serve to stem postcapitalist transformation, stopping short at a post-work society characterised by the continuation of capitalist social relations and forms. Retaining money, commodities and value under the rule of the nation-state, the proposed transition between post-work and postcapitalist society remains stuck at the level of an abstract utopia that breaks insufficiently with the present, in some ways making it worse by replacing a wage over which workers can lawfully bargain with a state-administered monetary payment that creates a direct relationship of power between citizen and state, liquidating labour struggles. The paper explores this via two case studies from the Global South: 1) the rise of the basic income as part of Nerendra Modi’s authoritarian nationalist policy platform in India; 2) the Unemployed Workers Organisations in Argentina. The latter suggests a ‘concrete utopian’ alternative that creates the capacity to reshape the relationship between individuals, society and the rule of money, value and the state rather than reinforce it, principally by devolving monetary and non-monetary resources and power rather than centralising them in the hands of an all-powerful ‘postcapitalist’ state. The paper concludes by considering how such an alternative could create space for struggle in, against and beyond capitalist development in other contexts in the Global North, such as the United Kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-491
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Labor and Society
Issue number4
Early online date25 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018


  • post capitalism
  • post work
  • Paul Mason
  • concrete utopia
  • social reproduction
  • value theory
  • the state
  • UBI
  • money
  • social form
  • alternatives
  • class struggle
  • labour
  • India
  • Argentina
  • Piqueteros
  • Movement of Unemployed Workers
  • Dinerstein
  • Srniceck and Williams
  • Bloch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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