Small Group Project 2021
Universal Basic Income (UBI) programmes are unconditional and universal transfers of cash to every citizen, covering basic subsistence needs, intended to facilitate the transition towards reduced working days (Ferguson, 2015, Fumagalli, 2019, Standing, 2019). Scholars and experts across the political spectrum suggest that UBI programmes are the most direct and efficient form of poverty reduction, especially in the Global South, characterised by industrial underemployment and extended informal economies. Moreover, by abolishing wage-work, UBI fosters labour commons, peer-to-peer work and cooperative value-creation (Mazzuccato, 2018; Bauwens et al., 2019). The existing UBI programme in Maricá, Brazil is unique because of its scale – it involves a third of the town’s residents and the cash distributed by the municipality nearly equals the national minimum wage. Unlike other UBI programmes, it uses the municipal currency mumbucas, so that the injection of cash by the municipality is reinvested into the local ‘solidarity economy’. As demands for permanent UBI become more mainstream in the wake of cash transfer programmes in response to COVID 19, the proposed pilot project will be the first anthropological study of an already established UBI project made in collaboration with the economists who set it up and based on engagement with the local community, in order to assess cultural responses to the prospect of a post-work future. It will establish a dialogue between quantitative data – statistical descriptive analyses of municipal household records and surveys – and ethnography, using the latter to feed back into and adjust the former, based on regular meetings with Brazilian economist Professor Fabio Waltenberg and additional feedback from advisors Professors Kathi Weeks, Guy Standing and Andrea Fumagalli. This project’s unique transdisciplinary approach to UBI, combining anthropology and economics, meets the Independent Social Research Foundation’s mission of supporting independent-minded researchers and new, original approaches to core societal issues.