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Plenty in an age of scarcity
by Richard Seymour / Aug. 31, 2018

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really good take on the problems with the "UBI" framing

Seymour, R. (2018, August 31). Plenty in an age of scarcity. Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/posts/plenty-in-age-of-21068944

[...] one could try to position the universal basic income as a 'transitional' demand. Its aim would be, not to stop at a certain moderate limit, but to expand the social wage to the point where it crowds out the market wage. It's not equal pay for equal work; it's just equal pay. After all, 'equal pay for equal work' only applies to work that is remunerated on the market. The point about a social wage is that it doesn't respect the boundaries of the capitalist market.

And it would be no good talking about 'affordability' in response to that. 'Affordability' is, up to a point, always a political and not a technical question, decided by gambit not by research paper. The language of universal basic income gains traction because it works on an aspect of contemporary experience. In doing so models a legitimate desire. That experience, whatever the analytical problems with the concept, is precarity. Precarity is a complex, compound notion. Ideologically, it touches on precarious work, shaky mortgages, atomisation, the disintegration of social solidarity. It gives form to a certain jitteriness about the once grandiosely extolled 'risk society', and the wish that the clamours of this life would be contained a little.

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago

[...] one could try to position the universal basic income as a 'transitional' demand. Its aim would be, not to stop at a certain moderate limit, but to expand the social wage to the point where it crowds out the market wage. It's not equal pay for equal work; it's just equal pay. After all, 'equal pay for equal work' only applies to work that is remunerated on the market. The point about a social wage is that it doesn't respect the boundaries of the capitalist market.

And it would be no good talking about 'affordability' in response to that. 'Affordability' is, up to a point, always a political and not a technical question, decided by gambit not by research paper. The language of universal basic income gains traction because it works on an aspect of contemporary experience. In doing so models a legitimate desire. That experience, whatever the analytical problems with the concept, is precarity. Precarity is a complex, compound notion. Ideologically, it touches on precarious work, shaky mortgages, atomisation, the disintegration of social solidarity. It gives form to a certain jitteriness about the once grandiosely extolled 'risk society', and the wish that the clamours of this life would be contained a little.

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago

In the traditional language of the far left, it is possible to talk about "transitional demands". Reforms that, though reasonable, are also incompatible with the capitalist system. They are advanced as pedagogical devices, ways to assemble political coalitions that in practical terms bring them into conflict with capitalism. But what reforms truly point in that direction?

interesting way of framing it!

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago

In the traditional language of the far left, it is possible to talk about "transitional demands". Reforms that, though reasonable, are also incompatible with the capitalist system. They are advanced as pedagogical devices, ways to assemble political coalitions that in practical terms bring them into conflict with capitalism. But what reforms truly point in that direction?

interesting way of framing it!

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The reforms to welfare, justified by an attempt to undermine the supposed cultural sources of poverty, have been slowly turning it into a disciplinary mechanism. But it doesn't absolutely have to be that way. That just happens to be one way of solving unemployment from a supply-side perspective. And while the fungibility of cash gives you a certain range of choices, freedom is not reducible to choice. To an extent, freedom paradoxically involves being freed from those choices that are not intrinsically meaningful.

For most people, the NHS offers more freedom than a tax refund would. If you want to know what exhausting rigours it frees you from, look at the US healthcare market. An affordable, socially-owned house would free you in another way. You might have less choice with public provision. But a home is a complex thing. It puts together a range of amenities and affordances, from energy to water to sleeping quarters. It's a base from which life projects can be embarked upon. If your home is secure, all of those other things are secure, and your attention is free to focus on other things. You can plan your life. You don't have to put every ounce of your ingenuity into the classically middle class pursuit of 'climbing the property ladder'.

Not everything we could have a use for is amenable to this logic. In some areas, choices are meaningful. What books you read, what films you see, who you spend time with, what clothes you wear. Of course, the emerging digital order is predicated on the idea that choice is not meaningful; it is always heteronomously determined. Whether or not the platform bosses, the gaming companies, behavioural economists and government bureaucrats really believe in radical behaviourism in a deep sense, its precepts have filtered into everyday practice. Preferences have become an object for manipulation and guidance, rather than the self-evident starting point of all individual action in a liberal society. The silicon order is not just post-democratic in that sense, but post-liberal. Nonetheless, while this describes technique, it doesn't yet describe human action. And even if it did, the illusion of choice is still very important to us. So choices for the time being matter.

god he's such a good writer

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The reforms to welfare, justified by an attempt to undermine the supposed cultural sources of poverty, have been slowly turning it into a disciplinary mechanism. But it doesn't absolutely have to be that way. That just happens to be one way of solving unemployment from a supply-side perspective. And while the fungibility of cash gives you a certain range of choices, freedom is not reducible to choice. To an extent, freedom paradoxically involves being freed from those choices that are not intrinsically meaningful.

For most people, the NHS offers more freedom than a tax refund would. If you want to know what exhausting rigours it frees you from, look at the US healthcare market. An affordable, socially-owned house would free you in another way. You might have less choice with public provision. But a home is a complex thing. It puts together a range of amenities and affordances, from energy to water to sleeping quarters. It's a base from which life projects can be embarked upon. If your home is secure, all of those other things are secure, and your attention is free to focus on other things. You can plan your life. You don't have to put every ounce of your ingenuity into the classically middle class pursuit of 'climbing the property ladder'.

Not everything we could have a use for is amenable to this logic. In some areas, choices are meaningful. What books you read, what films you see, who you spend time with, what clothes you wear. Of course, the emerging digital order is predicated on the idea that choice is not meaningful; it is always heteronomously determined. Whether or not the platform bosses, the gaming companies, behavioural economists and government bureaucrats really believe in radical behaviourism in a deep sense, its precepts have filtered into everyday practice. Preferences have become an object for manipulation and guidance, rather than the self-evident starting point of all individual action in a liberal society. The silicon order is not just post-democratic in that sense, but post-liberal. Nonetheless, while this describes technique, it doesn't yet describe human action. And even if it did, the illusion of choice is still very important to us. So choices for the time being matter.

god he's such a good writer

by Richard Seymour 2 months, 2 weeks ago