Basic Income: Progressive Hopes and Neoliberal Realities

February 27, 2018

John Clarke

Tuesday, February 27, 7:30PM–9:30PM, Room 320, Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 West Hastings Street

Co-sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities, SFU Public Square, SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement, and SFU's Labour Studies Program

This lecture will examine the question of basic income (BI), focusing on two key issues. Firstly, I will argue that a neoliberal version of BI is being considered and even developed by a number of governments and institutions of global capitalism. This form of BI could enhance the supply of low wage precarious workers, by offering a public subsidy to employers, paid for by cuts to others areas of social provision. Secondly, I will explore and counter what I argue is a delusional notion on the political left that, regardless of neoliberal realities or the fundamental nature of the capitalist job market, it will somehow be possible to ensure that a universal, unconditional and adequate form of income support, a UBI, can be created. I will argue that this false hope for a social policy end run around neoliberal austerity is diversionary and dangerous and should be rejected. 


John Clarke first became involved in anti-poverty struggles in 1983 when he helped form the Union of Unemployed Workers in London, Ontario. Since 1990, he has worked as an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). 


Jenna van Draanen, PhD, serves on the Board of Directors of the Basic Income Canada Network and is a member of the Executive Committee for the Basic Income Earth Network. She is a postdoctoral researcher based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and is committed to working toward health equity and social justice. Her research looks at the role of poverty in mental health and substance use disorders. 

Michal Rozworski is a union researcher and economist based in Vancouver, BC. His writing has appeared in Jacobin, Ricochet, the Toronto Star, Briarpatch Magazine and The Globe and Mail, among others. He produces the Political Eh-conomy blog and is currently working on a book, The People’s Republic of Walmart, with Leigh Phillips.

Trish Garner is the provincial organizer for the BCPRC.  She is a tea swilling Brit with a passion for social justice. As the Community Organizer of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, a broad-based network of over 400 organizations throughout BC, she focuses on communications, outreach and community engagement to raise awareness about the root causes of poverty and inequality, and how we can collectively tackle them. She has a PhD in gender, sexuality and women’s studies from SFU and continues to work on LGBTQ issues.  Trish lives with her partner and their three young children in East Vancouver.

Duane Fontaine is a professional accountant and is currently a PhD student in SFU’s interdisciplinary SAR program. He is studying the nature of work in contemporary society and is contrasting it with an examination of alternative visions for the future of work. The widespread application of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence into the productive economy threatens the future of work. Duane is revisiting the utopian quest for an Aesthetic State and how its emancipatory potential, combined with such transitional solutions as Universal Basic Income, might present an opportunity to redefine the very nature and purpose of work in a way that enhances meaning and freedom.