The empowerment of the economic agent: An imperative at the heart of the debate on universal basic income

Laudine Grapperon

Table of Contents


This article reveals that at the heart of the passionate debate on universal basic income (UBI), which nevertheless asserts one of the strongest notions of utopias and demands for freedom, lies the triumph of the notion of animal laborans, as suggested by Hannah Arendt (1983), which is observed on both sides of the debate. We highlight the incoherence of the pro-UBI appeals that results from their use of the notion of the animal laborans, as well as the dangers that this anthropological presupposition poses to the viability of democratic societies. We conclude by showing how the defense of UBI can, under certain conditions, constitute an exceptional opportunity to unsettle the animal laborans of the contemporary doxa and thus lead to presenting salutary alternatives.

Code JEL: A13, D01, H30, I38, J29, Z13.


universal basic income, animal laborans, selective incentives, empowerment, free-riding