Citizen's Income Newsletter, Autumn 1999

Gorz and Citizen’s Income

Gorz, André. Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Wage-Based Society, Polity Press, 1999

By Tapani Lausti

Having earlier opposed the idea of Citizen’s Income, Gorz has now become one of its most eloquent supporters. Even if CI cannot be achieved immediately, Gorz thinks its conceptualisation helps to imagine a future society which relies less on paid employment, enabling a more autonomous life-style for citizens. They would be able to participate in collective activitities “outside the power apparatuses of capital and the state”.

Gorz emphasises the importance of granting each citizen a sufficient social income. The aim, after all, is to free people “from the constraints of the labour market”. He writes: “The basic social income must enable them to refuse work and reject ‘inhuman’ working conditions. And it must be part of a social environment which enables all citizens to decide on an ongoing basis between the use-value of their time and its exchange-value: that is to say between the ‘utilities’ they can acquire by selling their working time and those they can ‘self-provide’ by using that time themselves.”

In answer to the frequent question of where the money will come from, Gorz points out that the whole of society is forced to look at its way of redistributing wealth to cover individual and collective needs. The amounts needed ultimately exceed the amounts distributed by and for production. “It is the society and the state which are coming apart at the seams.”

As the foundation of the wage-based society erodes, the distribution of means of payment will no longer take the form of a wage but a ‘social income’: “This no longer reflects the ‘value’ of the labour done (…) but the needs, desires and aspirations society chooses to meet.” Gorz concludes: “When fully thought through, the universal grant of a basic income can be seen as equivalent to a pooling of socially produced wealth.” National product becomes collective property “produced by collective labour in which it is impossible to assess each person’s contribution”.

All in all, the concept of CI in Gorz’s scheme helps to reveal “the nonsensical nature of a system which makes unprecedented savings of working time, but turns that time into a disaster for those who save it, because the system can neither share it out, nor share out the produced or producible wealth, nor recognize the instrinsic value of ‘leisure and time for higher activities’(Marx)”.    


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