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Individual Paper: The Maintenance Economy

The role of Universal Basic Income in nurturing an economy centred on social and ecological care.

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The Maintenance Economy

The role of Universal Basic Income in nurturing an economy focused on social and ecological care.
This paper builds on the “ICE model”, listing the Industrial, Caring and Ecological components of the modern economy, with a specific focus on the hidden, ‘maintenance’ economy of care and ecology. The current paradigm of economic growth has been predicated on industrial extraction and exploitation of ecological and social activities. This paper will acknowledge that these processes are under increasing social and environmental pressure. The environmental implications of exploitative industries have resulted in catastrophic anthropological climate change, while the classically paid labour used by these processes is threatened by increasing automation and changing working practices. The acknowledgement of the scale and urgency of these problems provides an opportunity for a renewed focus on the maintenance economy, which is largely based around unpaid work. Unpaid work in households has historically been carried out by women and the exploitative aspects of this process are explored through a feminist economics perspective. The care economy is inherently less resource intensive than industrial economic activities and therefore this rebalance will have striking implications with regards to natural conservation.

This paper suggests that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) could act as a bridging mechanism between an economy focused on paid industrial work, and one centred around the essential unpaid work of the maintenance economy. UBI does not offer an end - in itself, but rather the means to facilitate a shift towards a fairer and equal society, with a specific focus on gender equality and ecological sustainability. By providing an indirect income, UBI does not attempt to commodify or ascribe a specific exchange value to work which is innately qualitative. UBI provides the basis for a change in the way that caring activities are valued by society; mitigating the power of the economic incentive of paid work, or the disincentive of unpaid work. UBI alone will not be sufficient in dealing with structural and societal power relations linked to exploitation, however it does begin to challenge and transform the system in which these power relations exist.

Key words: Care; Degrowth; Gender; Maintenance Economy; Money; Universal Basic Income; Work.

Johnny McCreesh
Uppsala University
February 2018


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Conference room)
Track: Care, gender and feminism




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