Accessibility statement

Basic Income: Theory and Practice - POL00091M

« Back to module search

  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Louise Haagh
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module looks at the provenance and practice of the idea of basic income – to give all citizens a regular income grant without conditions. Beyond the contemporary hype about the proposal and drawing on writings in political and economic thought from the inception of modernity till today, the module looks at the history and thinking behind basic income as a portal into an understanding of recurrent problems in the constitution of civil society.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module engages the theory and practice of basic income, using an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on politics, applied philosophy, political economy and development ethics. The module sets basic income at the intersection of debates about capitalism and democratic equality, and looks at how this tension has shaped thinking about basic income across time. The module looks at how different schools of thought have understood basic income as a response to political and economic problems of their time.  We will also look at how basic income has been applied to particular debates about social equality, including in term sof gender and work. We will look at how different perspectives and development contexts have reshaped the proposal and the thinking behind it. Particular attention will be paid to how the idea and writing about basic income is bound up with thinking about governing institutions, e.g. money, work and employment, the state, and democracy. Finally, the module looks at the role of basic income debate in post-crisis public policy and politics, in relation to, respectively, anti-poverty policy, welfare reform experiments and debates, and populist movements.

Module learning outcomes

Students will gain advanced competence in working and reasoning across disciplines.  Students will be exposed to a range of theoretical perspectives and approaches to basic income reform, and will be challenged to develop critical skills in applied ethics. Students will be challenged to reason around policy problems, and test theories against practical problems and changing development contexts. Students will be encouraged to use multi-level reasoning, that is, test the applicability of theories and evidence to changing contexts and underlying problems. Students will learn to formulate independent research questions, and present concise opinion pieces orally and in written form, as well as use the apparatus of scholarship within conventional academic writing.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment.  They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend.  They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.


Indicative reading

Marangos, J., Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814) on land ownership, land taxes and the provision of citizens' dividend’ in International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 35 Issue: 5, pp.313-325

Van Parijs, P., and van der Veen, 1986 ’A Capitalist Road to Communism’

Christensen, E. and Birnbaum , S. 2007, ‘Anthroposophical Reflections on Basic Income - Johannes Holhlenberg, Basic Income Studies, Vol 2 (2), 1-17

Widerquist, K., 2013, Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Van Parijs, P. and Vanderborght, Y., 2017, Basic Income, Harvard: Harvard University Press

Haagh, L. 2011, Basic Income, Social Democracy, and Control over Time, Policy and Politics, January, Policy & Politics 39(1):43-66

Haagh, L., 2019, The Case for Basic Income, Cambridge: Polity

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.