Building distributive populism: basic income and political alternatives to ethno-nationalism

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Left-behind places face linked economic and political problems that must be resolved jointly. This paper examines the potential contribution of basic income programs to that goal. Consisting of regular, no-strings-attached payments to citizens, basic income programs ensure resources and stability for poor and economically precarious households who comprise a significant share of left-behind places’ populations. Advocacy for basic income emphasizes social and ethical commitment to individuals who have paid the price for economic decline. Thus, even though the goal of national and universal basic income remains distant in the UK, activism for basic income has succeeded in creating alternative paths for populist sentiments originating in the decline of left-behind places. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and interviews with advocates in the UK and elsewhere, I demonstrate that activism for basic income diverts potential support for ethno-nationalism and European withdrawal to alternate, place-contingent and variegated regional political paths.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberrsad040
JournalCambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 16 2023


  • basic income
  • regional economic growth
  • economic populism
  • ethno-nationalism
  • left-behind places


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