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“A floor that nobody can fall beneath”: Universal Basic Income activism in the COVID19 era

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ewan MackenzieORCiD, Toby Lloyd


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This paper examines the social and political dimensions of Universal Basic Income (UBI) activism in the context of the politics of austerity and the COVID19 pandemic. We address the UBI Lab network (Necessity, 2020) as a heterogeneous grassroots social movement (Jasper, 1997) that seeks to reframe work and life on egalitarian and emancipatory terms (Graeber, 2018), while advocating for an alternative to the normalisation of precarity (Lorey, 2015). Drawing from ongoing participatory research involving in-depth interviews with UBI activists and campaigners throughout the UK, we report on the nature of their political engagement and participation. Our findings illustrate how activists construct a culture of connectedness and community framed in response to the politics of austerity, often in reference to their own experiences and proximity to its disempowering effects. Moreover, within the COVID19 era, we illustrate how alternative responses to the effects of austerity policies are further legitimised among activists as their identities are affirmed through public discourses that query and reconstitute values on work and livelihoods. The paper contributes to our understanding of social movements as vehicles for social change that are both constrained and enabled by particular historical conditions, while at the same time illustrating the potential for collective movements that challenge the politics of austerity in the COVID19 era.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mackenzie E, Lloyd TP

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: BSA Work, Employment and Society Conference: Connectedness, activism and dignity at work in a precarious era

Year of Conference: 2021

Pages: 102-102

Acceptance date: 28/05/2021

Publisher: British Sociological Association