Postcapitalism, Basic Income and the End of Work: A Critique and Alternative

Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Frederick Harry Pitts

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This paper critiques popular academic understandings of development towards a post-capitalist,post-work society based around the automation of production and the provision of a basic income tothose displaced by its effects. By focusing on work and its escape as the central issue at stake in thetransition to a postcapitalist society, these accounts miss how, at one end, capitalist work ispreconditioned by a historically-specific set of antagonistic social relations of constrained socialreproduction, and, at the other, by the specific social forms assumed by the results of that work incommodity exchange and the constituted form of the nation-state. Retaining money, commoditiesand the rule of value under the auspices of a national state postcapitalist and post-work vistasrepresent abstract ‘bad utopias’ that break insufficiently with the present, and in some ways make itworse, replacing a wage over which workers can lawfully struggle with a state-administeredmonetary payment that creates a direct relationship of power between citizen and state. This ishighlighted in the potential adoption of basic income as part of authoritarian nationalist policyplatforms including that of Nerendra Modi in India. Suggesting that struggles over the contradictoryforms assumed by social reproduction in capitalist society are themselves labour struggles and notexternal to them, we pose a ‘concrete utopian’ alternative that creates the capacity to reshape therelationship between individuals, society and the rule of money, value and the state rather thanreinforce it. To illustrate this we examine the Unemployed Workers Organisations instituted inArgentina. This poses one potential means of devolving monetary and non-monetary resources andpower rather than centralising them in the hands of an all-powerful ‘postcapitalist’ state that wouldcarry all the scars of the society it sets out to surpass. Such a 'concrete utopia' would create spacefor, and not liquidate or falsely resolve, class struggle in, against and beyond capitalist development.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCentre for Development Studies, University of Bath
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Publication series

NameBath Papers in International Development and Wellbeing


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