Alexander Pavlov 1
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Free Money in a Mousetrap of Surveillance Capitalism: Basic Income and Social Theory

2020, vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 198–224 [issue contents]
The article concerns the social theory of an unconditional basic income (a regular payment to each person regardless of their level of need or employment). The article points out that, during the last three years in Russia, the idea of a basic income has been actively discussed. This applies mainly to economists, whereas the author puts the question of a basic income in the context of Western social theory. In a situation of ever-accelerating changes that affect society (from technologicalization and automation to the reduction of social time), the world faces many global challenges. A basic income is one of them. The article highlights the reasons for the actualization of the topic of a universal basic income in contemporary social theory of the last ten years. These include automation, the transformation of the economy leading to changes in the types of employment, experiments on the implementation of a basic income in some countries, and most importantly, the discussion of “bullshitization”, which has happened to many jobs in the framework of contemporary financial capitalism (David Graeber). It reveals the understanding of a basic income by its key proponents and theorists (Srnicek, Williams, Van Parijs, Vanderborght, Ford, Graeber, Standing, and others), as well as the fact that freedom is often called as the main goal of a basic income implementation. The paper demonstrates that, in fact, we are mostly talking about the imperative of freedom, which is not always properly clarified. However, it does not matter how freedom is understood in the works of basic income theorists since it is unlikely to be realized in modern socio-economic conditions, and because current capitalism has mutated so much that it now uses the very fabric of human experience rather than labor as its raw material. In this context, talks about automation is more of a thought experiment, and therefore the discussion should be shifted to another perspective. Despite the fact that, according to the author’s case, a basic income is not entirely impossible in practice (and even perhaps not being desirable), it provides fruitful material for the development of contemporary social theory.
Citation: Pavlov A. (2020) Besplatnye den'gi v myshelovke nadzornogo kapitalizma: bazovyy dokhod i sotsial'naya teoriya [Free Money in a Mousetrap of Surveillance Capitalism: Basic Income and Social Theory]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 198-224 (in Russian)
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