Post-Scarcity Economics

Aaron Benanav

23rd March, 2-3.30pm – Zoom

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In a world of rampant economic insecurity, slowing economic growth, and rising inequality, we would like to imagine that it is possible to get to a place where we can use our vast social and technological resources to ensure that no one experiences scarcity when it comes to the essential goods and services that people need to make a life. Universal Basic Income (UBI) and its sister proposal, Universal Basic Services (UBS), provide some idea of how this future might be realized: we could give people unconditional access to the resources they need to make a life. However, a UBI and UBS large enough to have a substantial effect on people’s living conditions would clearly require deep-seated transformations in the shape of our economy and society. If work were no longer the condition of survival for the vast majority, how would the economy also have to change? In this talk, Benanav argues that thinking through this question is the key to understanding “post-scarcity economics.” Whenever people in history have overcome insecurity, they have found that they cared about more than just the extent of their access to material goods and services. A larger range of ends and aims, including satisfaction at work, ecological sustainability, social justice and reparations, and so on, presented themselves as equally important issues over which to contend. Post-scarcity economics suggests that a more complex form of decision making has to replace calculation and choice in monetary units, in order to allow a wider variety of ends and aims to shape the terms on which we meet our needs—in a process that is cooperative, conflictual, and radically open.

Aaron Benanav is a sociologist, economic historian, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Syracuse University. His  first book, Automation and the Future of Work, appeared with Verso in 2020. His writing has been featured in the Nation, Guardian, New Statesman, Boston Review, New Left Review, and Dissent. Benanav’s research interests include automation and the future of work, unemployment and underemployment, economic growth and development, critical theory, and alternative economic systems.

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