Note: This review has been submitted to Political Studies Review, and as such is not the final version. The definitive version will be available at Wiley Online Library. Do not cite without permission of the author. Can also be found on my Academia.edu page.
K. Widerquist, J. A. Anguera, Y. Vanderborght, and J. de Wispelaere (eds.) Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013).
The rise of the Green Party in the 2015 British general election has raised the profile of the basic income (even if the policy was quickly dropped from the 2015 manifesto). Those who find their interest in the policy piqued should seriously consider Widerquist, Noguera, Vanderborght and de Wispelaere’s comprehensive and coherent anthology of research around BI. Split over nine sections (freedom, justice, reciprocity and exploitation, feminism, economics, post-productivism, implementation, institutions, and politics), the seventy-four chapters provide a rigorous introduction to the concept (and variants thereof, including the Negative Income Tax and the Participation Income).
The editors have done well to compile such a varied collection of positions; whilst the majority of the chapters are supportive of a BI (in some form) either in vacuo or as part of a larger package of reform, the anthology does not shy away from well thought out critiques of the policy, especially in the feminist and economics sections. This is a refreshing inclusion, since advocates must deal with the widespread real-world opposition to the policy.
The anthology is also effective at balancing philosophical and political schools, and features thinkers as diverse as Tobin and Friedman, as well as Marxian, libertarian, left-libertarian, and republican proponents of BI. Furthermore, much thought has clearly gone into ensuring the chapters ‘talk’ to one another. Works are sequenced to follow debates, with the first three sections providing a strong philosophical grounding for the latter sections. However, most chapters can be read individually.
However, perhaps due to the availability of existing scholarship, there is a heavy bias towards the philosophical, with just a minority of chapters featuring a significant empirical component showing how a BI could work in practice – this is problematic, since a lack of feasibility is a common criticism of the policy. A further gap in the anthology is the almost universal focus on Europe and North America. Exceptions to this are the brilliant and intriguing chapters by Van Parijs and Standing, both of whom examine the global South and the movements towards, and potential for, a BI in these polities – one cannot help but be left with the feeling that prospects for a BI are stronger here than in the West.
Overall, this anthology is a welcome contribution to the basic income corpus. Although some chapters draw upon models or concepts that may be alien to a general audience, there is something for everyone within this outstanding collection.
Queen Mary, University of London