Basic income, social freedom and the fabric of justice

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This paper examines the justice of unconditional basic income (UBI) through the lens of the Hegel-inspired recognition-theory of justice. As explained in the first part of the paper, this theory takes everyday social roles to be the primary subject-matter of the theory of justice, and it takes justice in these roles to be a matter of the kind of freedom that is available through their performance, namely ‘social’ freedom. The paper then identifies the key criteria of social freedom. The extent to which the introduction of an UBI would meet these criteria is then examined, with a focus on the social role that stands to be most affected by an UBI, namely that of the worker-earner. It is argued that while an UBI is likely to be only partially effective as an instrument of specifically social freedom, its main justification lies not here, but in securing a basis for the subjective freedom that social freedom presupposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-865
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number6
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Axel Honneth
  • basic income
  • justice
  • recognition
  • social freedom


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