Political Economy of Reciprocity and the Partner State

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Contribution to the Nottingham Peer Production Workshop.

Title: The Political Economy of Reciprocity and the Partner State

By Cosma Orsi, Roskilde University Centre

Version without notes, for orginal doc see [email protected]


I would like to begin this paper pointing out some considerations taken from Michael Bowens’ essay Peer to Peer and Human Evolution.

‘peer to peer is a form of human network-based organization, more precisely a distributed network, which rests upon the free participation of equipotent partners, engaged in the production of common resources, without recourse to monetary compensation as key motivating factor, and not organized according to hierarchical methods of command and control. It creates a Commons, …. And relies on social relations to allocate resources rather than on pricing mechanisms or managerial commands.’

‘peer production … is geared to produce use value, rather than primarily exchange value. Resource allocation is not dependent on market pricing nor on managerial command, but on peer governance models implicit or explicit in such projects. It is not motivated by a for-profit ethos, but by a for-benefit ethos and it enables 'production without manufacturer’.

‘Its form of social organization is cooperative, using a wide variety of centralized, decentralized, or distributed forms of management, with the option of forking in case of disagreement.’

‘… social accounting make automatic cooperation the default scheme of the project. Personal identity becomes partly generated by the contribution to the common project.’

Well, the above considerations, among many others expressed in Michel’s essay are definitively close to my own proposal - embodied by the political economy of reciprocity – and of which I am just about to present the main features. The reflections I am about to propose are based upon a simple consideration: when society is viewed as nothing more than its instrumental relations aimed merely at achieving the maximization of individual utility, the market comes to represent the economic institution par excellence and the rest is reduced to folklore or private affair. This is, however, an insidious train of thought because ultimately it elevates the market to the point that it ‘overshadows every other reality; the laws of economy dominate society and not the rules of society the economy. [It does] not see a society that has an economy, but a society that is an economy.’ Current economic thought, considering the economic process only from the point of view of those who gain from it, by its own nature tends to hide the imbalance of power between different actors within the marketplace. Obviously, it would be unrealistic to expect that an economic order aimed at enhancing the interests and the needs of all those who contribute to it, rather than those of a restricted élite may be achieved as a result of an improved version of present-day economic processes. In the difficult task of proposing a richer way of organising the economic activity to the one that has characterized our societies at least in the last three centuries, I shall draw inspiration from a number of political economists who questioned orthodox theory on the grounds that it has turned economic reflection into ‘the science of self-interest, of how to best accommodate individual behaviour by means of markets and the commodification of human relations.’ Recognising that economic theory developed by emptying economic relations of their social content, critics such as Sismondi, Ruskin, Hobson, Tawney, and many others, challenged its foundations. They offered an interpretation of socio-economic realty that sharply diverges from the one embraced by orthodox political economists. As a result, said critics developed an economic approach that, centred on human well-being, was able to recognize real people’s needs and interests as well as their higher aspirations. Building upon such a notable heritage, the stating point of the political economy of reciprocity is that the theory of value informing orthodox economic doctrine is fairly inaccurate as it explains the process of wealth creation without taking into consideration to what extent non-economic factors influence economic activity. It holds that although in the real world the production of value depends on a myriad of social interactions, modern economic theory tends to empty economic relations of their social content to the degree that important aspects of interpersonal relations cannot be accommodated within the framework offered by the market mechanism. Recognizing the extent to which economic activity is constrained and shaped by the structures of the social relations in which real people are embedded, the political economy of reciprocity departs from the dominant idea which holds that supply and demand under conditions of free competition determine the value of goods and services, and maintains that the creation of value depends upon the degree to which the system of social cooperation favours or restrains a kind of social interaction which allows each person to fully express their potentialities.

If wealth creation is generated by the encounter of real, rather than anonymous and abstract economic agents, it follows that the outcome of the economic activity is affected – positively or negatively – by social arrangements, norms and values that define and shape the nature of the relations that are in place among these agents. In this sense, the creation of value cannot be conceived other than as a social rather than an economic phenomena. Evidently, the idea that the process of wealth creation depends upon the degree to which the system of social cooperation facilitates or constrains the opportunities and resources available to each of its members leads to the conclusion that, in order to bring about a more balanced socio-economic order, although the market should continue to play an important role as it performs many functions well, it should not be conceived as the only economic mechanism: neither for ‘coordinating all the decision and practices constituting an economy’ nor for organising the production and distribution of goods and services that people need. Rather, it calls for multidimensional, dynamic and co-evolutionary socio-economic processes that, without denying the importance of the profit-seeking rationale, will leave enough room for mutual cooperation for the common good, that, borrowing from Sen, is here seen as a well-functioning society. Hence, the issue with which the political economy of reciprocity deals is not whether a given system of social cooperation can work effectively with or without markets, but rather how within it, market arrangements can function harmoniously in conjunction with other economic mechanisms.

As within market-driven societies economic exchanges occur among powerful and powerless actors, in order to bring about a more balanced system of social cooperation, the economic activity should be rethought moving from its connection to human nature and to the social context within which it develops rather than being merely conceived in its utilitarian perspective. Building upon an ideal of common membership based upon the understanding that people’s freedom and well-being primarily depends upon the institutions they are able to forge, rather than on their ability to adapt to the already formed ones the political economy of reciprocity maintains that no one should be denied access to activities and practices that are central in the life of society. Following this train of thoughts, it becomes apparent that if we really want that the process of production and distribution be reorganized so that decisions about what is produced and distributed could be made in such a way that would both take into consideration people’s interests and be consciously designed to meet unmet collective needs, then a more fundamental role should be given to civil society.

Consequently, an approach to the way of organizing the economic activity according to which no sector of the population should be left outside the scope of economic development calls for a model of economic development comprised of a market economy - within which profit-oriented enterprises operate; a non-market economy, within which governmental agencies have the mandate to redistribute fairly both social power and material resources; and finally, an economic domain of reciprocal solidarity formed by membership association ‘that are open and egalitarian enough to permit voluntary participation’; all having equal dignity and status. Before to proceed any further, it should be made clear that the latter economic domain is to be radically distinguished from at least two other economic models. It is not a charity economy, as it does not replace people’s rights with benevolence and philanthropy. And, it is not an informal economy, as it not only guarantee minimal levels of survival for those worst-off, but also it is committed to a broader project enabling all its participants to develop and exercise their capacities and express their experience

As we shall see shortly, such a way of organizing the economic activity will require a re-definition of people’s participatory role in economic decision-making processes, a strengthening of civic networks, and the elaboration of new approaches to the distribution of opportunities and material conditions capable of satisfying both individual and collective needs. Furthermore, as the argument unfolds, it will become clear that the way of organizing the economic activity entailed by the political economy of reciprocity rests upon a definition of human progress not just in terms of ever increased economic growth, but as a process by which all citizens would be enabled to develop their potential as active agents, so as to achieve sustainable improvements in their quality of life using the resources available to them. At its heart there is the belief that being geared around active and widespread participation in both market and non-market activities the envisaged socio-economic order is likely foster greater socio-economic equality, including the achievement of an equitable redistribution of income, wealth, and work opportunities, so as to meet to the maximum possible extent people’s needs, putting those of vulnerable people first.

The Political Economy of Reciprocity in Action

The Market

According to the market doctrine, economic theory should be confined merely to the analysis of the technical relations occurring within a given economic system. As a result, in their eyes what ultimately matters is the growth of the economic system. According to the political economy of reciprocity this can only be a mistake because economic growth represents just a portion of the wider idea of socio-economic development. If this is so, when dealing with fundamental issues such as what, how, and for whom to produce, economic activity ought to be structured in a way in which goods and services would be aimed at increasing the overall autonomy and well-being of all.

Within a socio-economic order geared around the precepts of the political economy of reciprocity, interdependence is the regulating criteria of social, political and economic relations. Interdependence, in turn, requires a high degree of responsibility on the part of all socio-economic actors regarding the course of actions to be taken. Not only people, but also market enterprises, being legal persons, should be responsible for their actions. In this light, approach in doing business should rest upon three main principles: a) minimization of harm; b) maximization of benefits; and c) accountability and responsiveness to stakeholders. By preventing environmental harm, treating employees responsibly, enforcing good conduct from suppliers, ensuring the safety of employees, market enterprises would minimize the negative consequences of business activities and decisions on stakeholders. By ensuring stable employment, paying fair wages, and producing goods with social value they would contribute to societal well-being. And finally, by becoming more transparent (for example by operating according to a code of conduct and producing social reports assured by third parties) and open (listening to and communicating with stakeholders) they could ‘create mechanisms to include the voice of stakeholders in governance.’

These responsible behaviours demand a broader understanding of entrepreneurship, namely that of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs recognize that economic value is created by people who voluntarily come together and cooperate to improve the overall welfare of the society. Consequently, their task is to endorse a vision which incorporates and sustains social value, whilst their mission is the pursuit of new opportunities to serve that vision. As the social dimension is explicit and central to their way of running operations, it will obviously affect the way in which this kind of entrepreneur sizes opportunities. As Catford has beautifully summarized, social entrepreneurs ‘see opportunities where others only see empty buildings, unemployable people and unvalued resources. .... Radical thinking is what makes social entrepreneurs different from simply ‘good’ people. They make markets work for people, not the other way around, and gain strength from a wide network of alliances.’ Within the parameters of this framework, wealth becomes just a means to an end: profit is the result rather than the driver in the process of wealth creation. This approach rests on the clear perception that creating value for stakeholders means creating value for shareholders. How else could it be possible to create shareholder value other than by creating products and services that customers are willing to buy, offering jobs that employees are willing to accept, building strong and durable relationships with all relevant stakeholders whose needs and interests are satisfied and that, indeed for this reason, will support those companies behaving in such a fashion? Such trusting, trustworthy, and cooperative behaviours ultimately lead to results far superior to those of the opportunistic and selfish behaviour fostered by orthodox political economists. A propos, Donaldson observes that - given the intrinsic value of stakeholders' interests - those organizations that actively manage stakeholder interests are far better in traditional measures such as return on investment than those who do not.

Furthermore, to make the maximization of profit as the only objective for market enterprises to pursue makes governance and management difficult, if not impossible. The problem with focusing upon the single objective of making money for shareholders is that the economic reality is simply far more complex than that. It is hard to imagine how anyone can look at the 1990s business failures both in the US and in the UK, all of which were merely oriented toward ever-increasing shareholder value, and argue that this philosophy is a good idea. Hence, rather than merely concentrating on the pursuit of an unlimited growth aimed at accumulating capital, market enterprises should proactively construe and maintain a system of social (and moral) values which would guide them in the management of strategic choices. Within such a normative framework, a morally sound market enterprise will be the one able to proactively manage human, social, natural, and manufactured capital in such a way that will not only add value to business, but also to the whole society. In producing wealth, well-being, and sociality, it will contribute to the generation of institutional, economic, and social contexts conducive to a human development assuring adequate rewards for all.

In assuming as usual practice the joint pursuit of both social and economic value, market enterprises should produce according to the following criteria: a) respect of the person b) responsibility (if each economic actor, in satisfying his own exigencies, would behave taking into consideration others’ exigencies, in the end all would find themselves in a better condition compared to the adoption of the strict utilitarian and individualistic logic) c) safeguard (since within the envisaged system of social cooperation obligations towards future generations are deeply felt, natural resources, land included, should not be depleted) d) precaution (intended as the capacity to prevent and control present and future risks) e) citizenship (each economic actor, enjoying the very same moral worth, should be considered as a full member of the community having rights and duties towards others). To transform these criteria into effective behaviours all those who contribute to productive activity in the formal labour market should be able to have a say. Unfortunately, within contemporary advance capitalists societies, those who hold the economic power make decisions, obliging powerless people to ‘adjust their actions according to decisions from where … their voice and interests have been excluded.’ Since this decision-making structure generates and reproduces unjust constraints on people’s lives, then a rethinking of such a structure should be concerned not only with the issue of who, by virtue of their position, has the effective freedom or authority to make decisions, but also with those rules and procedures according to which decisions are made.

At present, economic domination derives at least as much from corporate and legal structures and procedures that give some persons the power to make decisions about investment, production, marketing, employment, interest rates, and wages that affect large sector of the population. If justice is to be understood as equal positive freedom to the opportunities and conditions for self-determination then it becomes fairly apparent that it pertains, ‘not only to the distribution of material goods, but also to the distribution of rights and powers that are involved in economic production.’ In order to render market enterprises more respectful of persons-in-community’s interests and needs, it will be necessary that all those who contribute to the productive process in the formal labour market, enjoy an equal right to participate in decisions or choices concerning the activities in which they jointly engage with others on a daily basis. Carol Gould defines this as right to workers’ self-management. Its basis rests on the fact that if all persons-in-community should have a role to play not only in the political, but also in the social and economic arena, determined by rules that they can freely choose and modify, then the reorganization of the process of production and distribution should be decided jointly with all those who contribute to the productive activities in the formal labour market. This implies that workers in a firm ought to have the right to decide jointly on questions of the planning and organization of production or the provision of services, including what to produce or what services to provide, as well as rates of production, allocation of work, working hours, work discipline, etc. They would also have the right to determine jointly how the firm’s income is distributed, for example, how much of it is to be plowed back into the firm itself, how much distributed in wages, and how these wages are to be divided among themselves, that is, more properly speaking, how they are to share the net revenue.

So defined, workers’ self-management implies that decision-making power should remain in the hands of those who work in the firm. Gould utilized the argument for the restriction of the equal right to co-determine common economic activities to the basic unit of production in order to avoid the objection that, since everyone might potentially be affected by an economic decision, then it would become impossible to extend the right to participate to all of them. However, further than keeping the decision-making power in the hands of those who work in the firm, the author adds, that in the real world there is a domain of economic decisions that involves questions of social policy, taxation, investments, regional or national economic planning, and Welfare. As such matters would affect the most general conditions for the economic activity, then the right to participate in decision-making processes concerning such matters should be extended to all social parties whom might be affected by these decisions. If so, in order to regulate abuses of the market system there should be established ‘market-regulatory, and planning or investment commissions, which are democratically representative.’ The most general ground that can be here advanced in support of such a radical change in the actually existing economic decision-making structure can be found in the ideal of democracy. If people are committed to such an ideal, it follows that they ought to recognize its importance not only in political life but in the economic domain as well. Dahl convincingly wrote that

If democracy is justified in governing the state, then it is also justified in governing economic enterprises. What is more, if it cannot be justified in governing economic enterprises, we do not quite see how it can be justified in governing the state. Members of any association for whom the assumption of democratic processes are valid have a right to govern themselves by means of the democratic processes. If, as we believe, these assumptions hold among us, not only for the government of the state but also for the internal government of economic enterprises, then we have a right to govern ourselves democratically within our economic enterprises.’

The Domain of Reciprocal Solidarity

However, although broadening participation in economic decision-making processes would dramatically increase people’s opportunity to make their voice heard, it is perhaps difficult to believe that the market would become the place wherein the range of people’s interests and needs could be met in their entirety. In fact, even if people were to enjoy the right to participate on equal terms in economic decision-making processes, the market would still not be able to satisfy most of their needs. Hence, along side market-oriented economic activities, the realization of human’s autonomy and well-being calls for the implementation of an economic domain. As many observers noted, in the attempt to finding viable solutions to the challenges posed by the re-emergence of massive socio-economic inequalities in the context of globalization our societies have assisted the rebirth of micro, very small, and small social enterprise engaged in a countless number of activities aimed at the enhancement of the overall quality of life of the members of the communities within which they operate. The rationale behind their constant exploration of alternative ways of organizing economic activities derives from the awareness that, since the economic sphere is unthinkable without referring to social relations, it cannot retreat into a purely impersonal market logic. The most common fields of intervention covered by social enterprises are those related to social and health assistance, social protection (above all group of social vulnerability), education, training, amateur sports, promotion and valorization of artistic and historical places, safeguard and valorization of the natural environment, promotion of culture and art, defence of civil rights, scientific research having relevant social interests, and many more. More or less organized depending on the circumstances, the resources at hand, and the goals to be achieved, participation in this domain cannot be said to be the result of a kind of superficial voluntarism based on a vague notion of the common good. As it is the outcome of everyday problems, which, discussed and socialized, orient the activities towards the realization of the overall welfare of the society. It becomes the manifestation of a common sense, that is, the sense of a world shared with others.

The normative matrix upon which social enterprise operate is mutual solidarity and attentiveness to others. All economic activities undertaken by social enterprises entail a transfer of goods or services to other persons or group of persons, where such a transfer is not subjected to a contract explicitly agreed upon or institutionally due. This transfer is consequently unconditioned, because it is not based on the beneficiaries’ duty to supply any goods or working performances in return. As Hartmann puts it, such an approach necessarily presuppose a ‘mutual co-existence, a bond, a state of co-responsibility of one’s self to others.’ The reason of such an engagement in non-market activities can be explained by the fact that in order to respond autonomously to the variety of unmet collective needs produced by the changed social conditions, an increasing number of people have finally reached a level of consciousness to organize themselves, without assuming the feature of market enterprises, or pleading for State intervention.

Over the last three decades, social enterprises have become the bearer of a fundamental norm: the production of goods or the provision of services aimed at meeting unmet collective needs is accomplished not because someone may pay for them, nor because there is a law obliging people to do so. Rather, it is performed simply because someone needs it. Indeed, the fact that the mission of present-day social enterprises consists of satisfying individual and collective needs has led some scholars to talk of the societal or political role of this economic domain. It was the Italian scholar Donati who first underlined the political role of social enterprises, stressing their ability to produce a particular type of goods and services that the author defines as relational in the sense that they are ‘produced and enjoyed through the relations connecting those involved’, that is, they are an integral part of such a relation. The effort inherent in cooperative social behaviours is not mere ‘transfer of resources from one agent onto another, because what is at the stake is not just to have, so-to-say, but also to be - to be with.’ Zamagni, specifying further the concept says that relational goods have a twofold connotation

With respect to the production side, it demands the participation of all members in the organization, but the terms of sharing are not negotiable. This implies that the incentive to participate in the production of the relational good cannot be external to the relationship among these members themselves: the others’ identity does matter. With respect to the consumption side, the fruition of a relational good cannot be pursued overlooking the condition of need and the preferences of their subjects because the relationship with the other one is a constituent of the consumption act.

This does not mean that all social enterprises produce relational goods. Rather, this simply means that only these enterprises are able to produce and make these goods available to a wider public. What is fundamental here is the fact that the logic underpinning the production of relational goods is neither confined to the group, nor to the subjects of which it is made. Rather, it is universalistic, that is, aimed at the fulfillment of needs of others with whom the producers may or may not share particularistic feelings of belonging, such as for example family ties, race, political or religious creed.

However, although the vastness of the interventions presently accomplished by social enterprises shows the phenomenal importance that ought to be attributed to social enterprises in terms of societal enhancement, this economic sector is shadowed by the preponderance of market arrangements. In this light, to bring about a more balanced system of social cooperation it ought and should be further implemented. Within a socio-economic order governed by more balanced power relation, a wider field of intervention for this economic domain should be identified. Its field of intervention ought not to be confined to voluntary activities having high social content but low remunerative returns excluding civil society from the participation in economic activities having not only high social content but also high remunerative returns (high social content infrastructures such as motorways, railways, universities, school, asylums, urban renewal, park, library, cinema, hospital, museums, social centres, gyms, recreational spaces, etc.). Traditionally, most of these fields of intervention have been managed principally by the State allowing mainly private enterprises to participate. The State, thus, should be engaged in a delicate intervention aimed at establishing clear boundaries between the market and the domain of reciprocal solidarity. Only in this way might a virtuous mechanism be primed, one which would enable economic activities having high social content but low rate of remuneration to be financed by those economic activities having both high social content but also highly remunerative rates of return. It is apparent that to take this path will require a redefinition of the modality of access to credit, which should not take into consideration merely the financial situation of the donor, but also the social relevance of those interventions for which access to credit is required. In the long term perspective the strategy of organizing the economic process welcoming civil society to collaborate in designing the socio-economic landscape rather than simply entrusting it with ‘mere interstitial functions,’ seems to be not only morally sound but also more rational.


Recognizing that too frequently people’s capacity to make a reality of their own freely-determined ends and goals is eroded by the actions of the economically powerful, the operational criteria informing the decision-making structure of the envisaged domain of mutual solidarity should assume as its foundational principle the fact that, if it is to take hold, socially sustainable economic strategies must spring up from decisions which take into account, to the greatest possible extent, what people need. Such a way of taking decision is inspired by the belief that, on the one hand people have the potential to manage ‘their own development at the micro-level to a significantly higher degree than is recognized in mainstream thinking’ and, on the other, that this is the only way genuine progress and improvements can be attained. According to the political economy of reciprocity in order to broaden effective opportunities to participate in discussions concerning the well-being of any given socio-economic-order, the decision-making structure should be located in the smallest and most local system unit possible. Autonomous public spaces should be established in local neighborhoods. These public spaces should be free from both State and market powers and should allow people to freely debate, voice issues concerning their needs and interests, and take decision concerning what ought to be done in order to solve the problems that affect their individual and collective life.

Here is worth to dwell upon Laville’s proposal to establish ‘public spaces of proximity’ defined by the author as ‘autonomous public spaces’ arising from processes regulated by reciprocity and not by money or administrative power. These are autonomous public spaces within which all those engaged in such an economic domain, being considered partners of equal dignity, enjoy effective opportunities to decide both the ends of the economic activity and the means by which to accomplish them - including what to produce or what services to provide. Allowing ordinary people ‘to meet each other, to have a say, to freely discuss, decide, elaborate, and put in place economic projects suitable for the contexts within which they emerge’, these autonomous public spaces may be conceived as instruments for the realization of common interests, goals, and ends. Since within public spaces of proximity the decision-making process requires decisions to be taken by the web of actors who are, either directly engaged in the economic activities undertaken, or final users, it is not unreasonable to say that it would allow all those affected by a decision to have a say or influence proportionately to the degree in which they might be affected.

This procedure might be called participatory self-management. It is participatory in that each person-in-community is identically welcomed into the decision-making process. It is self-managing in that every actor, being considered a partner of equal dignity, has the same amount of control over decisions that may affect his\her own life. This approach implicitly acknowledges the fact that persons stand in a dynamic interaction with others, and therefore may come to know their interests only via social interaction. In this sense, participatory self-management does not presuppose a social scheme within which people compete with each other. Rather, it entails people willing to reciprocally co-operate in the attempt to carry out and implement a variety of socio-economic interventions aimed at bettering the quality of life of others. So conceived, participation in the domain of reciprocal solidarity should be seen as the means for ensuring a sustainable livelihood for all members of the community. Indeed, discussions and decisions taken within these base-units, on the one hand, would allow the management of the ‘local human and physical resources in accordance with local priorities’, and, on the other, ‘articulate and promote local demands and interests in relation to the authorities and the rest of society.’ The broader participation in economic decision-making processes would not only become a benchmark for determining competencies in realizing the overall welfare of the community, but would also protect and enhance independent and autonomous economic initiatives, building the socio-economic order from the bottom-up. The participation in public spaces of proximity, furthermore, has an intrinsic value as it provides important means for the development and exercise of capacities. As Young notes, having and exercising the opportunity to participate in making collective decisions that affect one’s actions or the conditions of one’s actions fosters the development of capacities for thinking about one’s own needs in relation to the needs of others, taking an interest in the relation of others to social institutions, reasoning and being articulate and persuasive, and so on. Only such participation, moreover, can give persons a sense of active relation to social institutions and processes, a sense that social relations are not natural but subject to invention and change.

Participatory self-management, however, should not be seen merely as a means, but also as an end in itself. Such an end can be identified as the empowerment of people. With the phrase peoples’ empowerment we are referring to a process that makes those who belong neither to political nor economic elites aware of their potentialities as pro-active actors within the broader socio-economic reality. Within public spaces of proximity there may occur ‘the conscientisation and education of the members with a further view to enabling them to fulfil their roles as active and socially responsible citizens.’ What is important to underline about participatory self-management is that, in ruling out ‘the control by others over decisions concerning the economic activity of individuals or over the products of their labour’, it is likely to restore more balanced power relations and in doing so, enhance individuals’ true freedom. The process of public discussion occurring within the public spaces of proximity, furthermore, can also be said to be empowering in another sense. It is apparent that when people from different social, cultural, economic, and professional backgrounds freely meet with each other and discuss their collective problems, they learn from others’ experience. As a result of their confrontation with a ‘plurality of differently opinioned and situated others’, participants’ knowledge, perspective, understanding, experience and skills will be broadened. The opportunity to participate would become a moment of social learning, in which all persons-in-community may learn to recognize the limit of their autonomy, allowing them to identify ways to contribute positively to the solution of everyday collective problems.

However, as many political theorists have noted, decisions taken by a net-shaped constellation of people to whom the maximum amount of autonomy compatible with the attainment of collective ends is ascribed, are not always as effective as claimed. As a matter of fact, people often disagree about both the ends of the economic activity and the means needed in order to achieve them, as well as about values and priorities. Furthermore, in the real world, it is very likely that people will disagree upon what economic practices are most appropriate for the promotion of the well-bing of their respective communities.

According to the political economy of reciprocity, although it is possible that a genuinely pluralist context indeed contains considerable diversity and therefore conflict, this does not imply that those who are perceived as different are automatically enemies or adversaries. In a truly pluralist context, where strangers try to construct a dialogue around recognition of the validity of alternative arguments there might be more than a mere possibility that they might find it more useful to behave in a reasonable fashion. To be reasonable means that those who enter a discussion aimed at solving the problems that press on their collective lives, are willing ‘to listen to others who want to explain to them why their ideas are incorrect or inappropriate.’ Thus, reasonable persons ought to have an open mind, that is, they ought to neither assert their own views, interests, or opinion above all others’ nor insist ‘that their initial opinion about what is right cannot be subjected to revision.’ This, in turn, requires people committed to listening to the points of view of others. Behaving this way, they might change their mind when others would be able to persuade them that their initial position is wrong. When reasonable persons are allowed to speak freely, then, in the attempt to find the source of the problems they are trying to solve, they may ‘develop the appropriate social knowledge necessary to predict likely consequences of alternative courses of action meant to address them.’

Having said this, however, a question remains unanswered. On what grounds is it possible to claim that even if persons-in-community were allowed to participate in decision-making processes concerning the economic domain would such decisions be more just than those taken by self-interested utility maximizers? To answer this, it may be said that when economic strategies are collectively planned, there is the possibility that they would be undertaken with an eye to what is needed and useful for those who make the decisions rather than to secure private profit for absentee owners. Embracing the idea that each member of the envisaged socio-economic order not only ought to be enabled to choose the course of her life independently, but also to develop and exercise her capacities, reasonable persons will discuss and decide upon strategies that would enable the flourishing of jobs destined to the production of use value which, far from being mere social ‘shock-absorbers’, would be able to satisfy those social needs that neither the State nor the market are able or willing to fulfil. 

For the above reasons, the process of public discussion occurring within the public spaces of proximity seems to be the one most likely to arrive at a fair, wise and substantively just outcome, rather than when hundreds of autonomous units, public or private, try to maximize what they think to be their own interests. The collective critical wisdom that such a procedural approach develops would enable participants to reach solutions that are not only normatively right in principle, but also morally sound. Given the above, participatory self-management could be identified as a socio-economic practice that makes it possible to re-activate a process of social reassembling on which much of societal welfare depends. For this reason, public spaces of proximity may be conceived as an indispensable instrument through which a socio-economic order within which each person-in-community might have effective opportunities to be really heard on different levels might be reached. To put it plainly, the proposed model of development can be framed as an attempt to begin constructing an alternative socio-economic order entailing economic strategies and practices conducive to higher levels of social cohesion and justice.

At this stage one last issue has yet to be addressed. The question of how it might be possible to sustain a social order that facilitates the development of the phenomenal potentiality of civil society remains unanswered. To sustain the desired system of social cooperation, it will be necessary that the State does ‘not stand external to everyday economic life as a bureaucratic regulator’; rather it should be ‘integrated in the struggle to transform social relations’. More specifically, in order to redistribute both social and economic power in a fairer manner, the State should introduce an appropriate set of structural policies to ensure that the people’s formal freedom is turned into real freedom for all. In order to accomplish such a task, the responsibility to promote structural policies by means of which they may enjoy equal access to opportunities and resources will fall upon the State. The obligation on the part of governmental agencies to redistribute opportunities and resources in a more equitable fashion, at least for the fulfillment of basic needs, derives from the presumption of the equal moral worth enjoyed by each person-in-community. If each person enjoys equal moral worth, and if by virtue of this they have prima facie positive rights to the means of life, then there should be corresponding duties and obligations on the those agencies with the power to provide them. In the final chapter then, we will try to provide an answer to the following question: What structural policies ought to be introduced and implemented in order to sustain economic processes fostering a far more cohesive and inclusive sense of community grounded on reciprocal solidarity across social distance?

The Partner State

As we have seen above, according to the political economy of reciprocity, the economic activity ought to be organized in a way that would enable all citizens to enjoy the opportunity to be effectively engaged in economic processes on the basis of inclusion, equality, and reciprocal solidarity: on the one hand, all those who are actively involved in both market and non-market-oriented activities are welcomed to participate in decision-making processes so as to enable them to establish the conditions and the aims of their cooperation; on the other, the economic system produces and distributes alongside positional, also relational goods and services aimed at satisfying individual and collective needs that neither the state nor the market fulfill. The promotion of any empowering and enabling form of participation should move from a deeper approach to redistribution. The maintenance of sharp inequalities, in fact, would inevitably reproduce a dystopic society built along a hierarchical line, within which a few privileged élite would enjoy a sufficient amount of power to gain leverage against the intrusion of a State engaged in reducing their privileges.

Although to some degree the Keynesian Welfare system accomplished such a task, today’s policy-makers seem unable to promote sufficiently strong structural policies aimed at redressing the unequal distribution of power and resources - they are regarded as either politically unpalatable or economically unacceptable. Although it is apparent that the growing gap between the rich and poor is rocketing, the unemployment rate increases at a phenomenal pace, and exploitative practices are constantly at work, it can hardly be said that these phenomena are at the forefront of their agenda. In view of the above, a more sophisticated institutional framework able to promote a redistributive mechanism with more nuances should be identified. The actually existing form and role of the State needs to be revisited and enriched. More specifically, the achievement of a socio-economic order able to generate virtuous mechanisms aimed at facilitating the inclusion of all of its members in the social, political, and economic life of the community calls for a substantial transformation of the State into what can be defined a Partner State, that is, respectful of interests, decisions, and needs of persons-in-community. The basis for this latter claim rests on the recognition that a model of economic development based solely upon market-oriented processes, with the State in a backward position - whose intervention in the economic sphere should be restrained only to the case of market failure - rather then bringing about the desired emancipation for all, has ended up by imposing unbearable sacrifices and a very high degree of subjection upon the vast majority of people. The idea of the Partner State here advanced, closely resembles Veca’s Stato Sociale Minimo (minimal social State), to which the Italian philosopher refers as a State engaged in the maximization of individuals’ options, autonomy, and well-being. The approach to power characterizing the Partner State is responsiveness; not only should it be accountable towards those who give it mandate, but it should unceasingly interpret the needs and interests of all. Obviously, such an attitude towards power cannot be merely reduced to an executive or procedural role. Rather, further than taking decisions in case of conflicting interests, the Partner State should create a society within which social and economic power is distributed in a way that would enable all its members to participate on equal grounds in the active life of the community.

In an epoch of flexible accumulation, it is fairly evident that short-term policies aimed at implementing safety nets for the worst-off would be insufficient to bring about the desired socio-economic order. This claim is supported by many authors who have pointed out that, as they have been practiced by successive post-war governments, such short-term policies fail simply because they have always been introduced in response to immediate and urgent crisis. As the World Bank analyst Ana Ravenga summarized, short-term policies are generally designed to protect the worst-off from shocks that are temporary, but are inadequate for dealing with problems such as permanent poverty or long-term unemployment. Thus, in order to achieve such a tall order, it will be necessary to introduce structural policies aimed at providing to all its members an appropriate degree of socio-economic independence, intended as ‘the wherewithal to operate normally and properly in … society without having to beg or borrow from others, and without having to depend on their beneficence.’

The objective of ensuring the highest possible degree of socio-economic independence to all (from both public and private charity and from the potential arbitrariness of employers) derives from the awareness that there are legitimate doubts as to whether it is socially acceptable that the redistribution of both opportunity and resources should be left to the charity of the better-off. More precisely, in order to assure socio-economic independence in an era in which the logic of the market imposes a significant degree of social insecurity on the vast majority of people, the Partner State should be committed to the introduction and implementation of two structural policies, namely ‘Universal Basic Income’, (henceforth UBI) intended as a regular sum of money paid by governmental agencies to all with no conditions attached, along with the introduction of shorter working hours with no loss in earnings (henceforth RWT).

Basic Income

Indeed, the idea of distributing to all members of a given community an unconditional income ‘sufficient for subsistence’ seems to be a very challenging one. It is an exceedingly simple proposal that enjoys a long-standing tradition. In 1796, Thomas Paine advanced the idea of stakeholding. Half a century later, in 1849, John Stuart Mill, wrote unambiguously in favour of a fairer way of distributing income. In his seminal Principles of Political Economy he claimed that ‘a certain minimum is first assigned for the subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable or not of labour. The remainder of the produce is shared in certain proportions, to determine beforehand, among the three elements, Labour, Capital, and Talent.’ More recently, UBI was discussed in Britain over a period spanning from the 1920s through to the 1940s. In 1942, the Australian Sir Frederick Wheeler developed an argument in its favour and in the mid 1970s, it was revived by Henderson. Since the establishment of the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) in 1986, UBI has been at the heart of an extensive process of policy research and discussion in Europe. Furthermore, this idea has become central in discussions and debates between postmodernist thinkers such as Gorz and Offe, and leftist progressives such as Wright and Frankel. In 1999, Ackerman and Alstott, re-proposing Paine’s idea, introduced the idea of stakeholding to be allocated on a one-off basis at the beginning of adulthood. In the history of economic ideas, UBI has gone under many different names. In Britain it has been referred to as universal grant, social dividend, and citizen’s wage.

According to the political economy of reciprocity, UBI should be understood as the allocation of a regular and perpetual monetary sum to all the members of a given community. It should have the following fundamental characteristics: a) it has to be universal, that is non-discriminatory - it must be given to all human beings regardless of their sex, race, social, economic and marital status, religion, and age; b) unconditional, that is, paid irrespective of one’s income, or ones’ willingness to accept a job if offered; c) Cumulative to other forms of income already existing or yet to come; d) Paid on an individual basis and not to households. The claim that UBI should be paid to all person-in-community raises the question of whether or not children should also have an entitlement to it. Within the envisaged socio-economic order, UBI cannot be taken merely as a poverty or unemployment policy. Rather, it should be seen as an inclusive policy whose primary scope is that of reducing social exclusion and marginalization to the largest possible extent. In order to be successful, any structural policy aimed at fighting social exclusion should be informed by the richest notion of membership possible: to be explicit, one that includes children. Indeed, to connect citizenship with the status of minors may give shape to a contradictio in adjectio. The first term of this approach presupposes precisely that emancipation of the person that is obviously denied by the second one. Nonetheless, UBI should be provided independent of age. The normative basis upon which this claim rests derives from the necessity to provide an adequate response to the exigencies of minors in an equitable way, at least comparable with the way in which the community responds to the exigencies of all other adult members. This argument, in turn, is grounded on the belief that today’s young generations represent a fundamental resource for the future well-being of the community. Hence, since the pact of solidarity among different generations upon which most of the social fabric rests would be strengthened, it would be in the general interest to preserve minors’ substantial equality of treatment. Conversely, any infringement of this pact would risk weakening the ability of the community as a whole to deal with its future tasks.

The basis for the provision of UBI may well be founded on the particular notion of justice informing the envisaged socio-economic order. To those who have found it attractive there cannot be but a strong presumption in favour of UBI. A cash grant to all with no strings attached, in fact, would lead to the achievement of a much greater degree of socio-economic independence than that enjoyed by the majority of people living in market-driven societies. In particular it would guarantee to all its recipients, albeit partially, the resources necessary for the primary subsistence, thereby allowing them to live dignified lives. Indeed because UBI is related to the issue of primary subsistence, it must be seen as a birthright, or as a basic right. Here, a basic right is intended as a fundamental right in Shue’s sense. On Shue’s reading, a basic right specifies ‘the line beneath which no one is to be allowed to sink.’ According to this definition, a right is basic as far as its enjoyment ‘is essential to the enjoyment of all other rights.’ Now, since subsistence is ‘what it is needed for a decent chance at a reasonably healthy and active life of more of less normal length, barring tragic interventions’, this may well be defined as a basic right. Furthermore, by at least partly resolving the problems related to the material subsistence, it would noticeably increase people’s degree of autonomy. In the formal labour market, not being forced by hardship into meaningless, unpleasant or hazardous work, workers would be able to better negotiate their wages, working conditions and contracts with increased bargaining power. In fact, UBI would support the workers through the necessary negotiations with the owners of the means of production - allowing the former to be better equipped in the pursuit of their objectives without being blackmailed in terms of income. In addition, as UBI would be provided regardless of the recipient’s willingness to undertake any effective employment, it would allow the full enjoyment of economic citizenship without forcing the recipients to enter into the hierarchized process of material production. This is of great importance in a social reality where people belonging to groups of social vulnerability do not have the power to change the mechanism that keeps them in a destitute social position. Thus, it is fair to say that if UBI were to be institutionalised, all beneficiaries would see their freedom to choose the course of their lives dramatically increased.

Indeed for these reasons, UBI can be rightly conceived as a powerful tool for the realization of the potentialities of each persons-in-community, contributing significantly to the creation of their positive liberty. In this sense, UBI overcomes the negative definition of human liberty as simple absence of coercion. In light of what we have said, it is not difficult to understand why such a structural policy has been perceived as dangerous by those who control and shape current economic processes - and who consequently dismiss it as undesirable. In their eyes, the provision of UBI de facto represents a counter-power to the rules imposed by market-oriented processes and the derived social polarization. Having more bargaining power, ordinary people would even have the possibility of opting out of imbalanced power relations inherent in the market system. If this happened, one of the main disciplinary tools of social control would vanish.

However, although necessary, UBI alone would not be sufficient to sustain the socio-economic order entailed by the political economy of reciprocity. If all persons-in-community in addition to being enabled to choose the course of their life, were also enabled to develop and exercise their capacities, then it would be reductive to interpret the notion of liberty merely in terms of having the opportunity to choose one’s life according to one’s own values and aims. Indeed, the meaning of liberty should be enlarged to include the freedom to work and, broadly speaking, to develop and exercise one’s capacities. In other words, if justice is conceived not only as self-determination but also as self-development, all person-in-community should also be enabled to actively participate in market and non-market activities aimed at increasing the general well-being of their respective communities.

Reduction of Working Time

As we have seen, at present, people’s acceptance of the rules regulating the labour market is no longer the passport for social inclusion. If so, some questions arise. How should those currently excluded from the labour market, and those who will fall within this category in the next few decades, be dealt with? How will social inclusion and socio-economic independence be provided if the formal labour market is no longer able to provide the basis of personal welfare and social security? Finally, what structural policy is the most appropriate in order to bring about a more flexible, less hierarchical system of social cooperation, within which each person-in-community could be enabled to engage in both market- and non-market activities? It seems extremely difficult to imagine that at present ‘forms of socially-productive activity, that is, productive activity which is not oriented towards the market’ would become easily accessible for a vast number of citizens. Indeed, given their endemic lack of resources people are compelled to devote most of their efforts and time to market rather than non-market activities, often for exploitative salaries which do not allow them to lead even a dignified, let alone a meaningful life. In the real world, the vast majority of people are constrained by the necessity to create a livelihood for their family and are not free to choose how to allocate their time. This puts the vast majority of people, and especially those who belong to groups of social vulnerability, in a very different position to that of the wealthy who can choose how to allocate their time. Whilst the latter can dedicate their time to profitable activities and politics, the former have to dedicate most of their time to productive work within the formal labour market.

Given the above, alongside the introduction of UBI, it will be necessary to develop a medium and long-term policy leading to the achievement of the twofold goal of assuring equal paid employment opportunities in the formal labour market for all, whilst allowing those who want to undertake non-market activities to have the time to do so. This twofold goal, needless to say, will require the implementation of a different approach to work distribution. In the present section, an attempt will be made to clarify why this would entail a significant reduction in working time with no loss in earnings. From the outset, it should be said that the proposal of reducing the average working time is not new. Indeed, in the last 150 years, this proposal was advanced by labour movement activists who also advocated decent wages and safer working conditions. Both in West Europe and in North America, it was framed as a response to the proletarization of large sectors of the rural and urban population as a result of the spread of industrial capitalism. Under these circumstances, both for workers and socialist movements the reduction of the working time became one of the most pressing requests. It is not by chance that the issue of reducing the working day to 8 hours was anticipated in Marx’s Manifesto, along with universal suffrage and mandatory education. These were considered minimal requirements for a reform programme aimed at better living conditions for industrial workers.

This idea, however, has also attracted a great number of academics, according to whom the proposal of shortening people’s working life stems from the recognition that they need more time for their families, education, leisure, and for more active involvement in the promotion of the welfare of their respective communities. ’ From this perspective the reduction of the average time dedicated to market-oriented activities has been framed as a struggle to enhance people’s quality of life and their effective participation in societal changes; in short, to attain a different kind of society. Underlying a strategy aimed at introducing RWT is the belief that within present-day market-driven societies there exists a myriad of economic activities to be undertaken which, if accomplished, would significantly improve the quality of life of a vast number of its members. Unfortunately, given the predominance of market processes, these activities have been relegated to the periphery of economic activity. Hence, it would be misleading to define all activities under the general label of work tout court, so as to conclude that for many people within market-driven societies there is no work available. At present, what is not available is economically profitable work, namely work which can be bought and sold. Hence, the goal to be achieved through the introduction of RWT is to make available an adequate portion of social time for the realization of non-market economic activities.

To those who are sceptical about the introduction of this policy, it is possible to counter that it has already been inscribed in an ‘unavoidable historical perspective’. For example, economic historians maintain that productive processes tend to decrease the length of the working day. Their analyses show that, throughout the nineteenth century, any increase of productivity was followed by a reduction in working hours - which decreased from 80 to 60 hours per week. The same trend characterised the Twentieth century when the productive system began to utilise oil and electricity. The dramatic increase of productivity generated by the adoption of these two technologies led to a further reduction in working hours, reaching an average of 40 hours per week. In spite of the above reasoning, within market-driven societies powerful market actors operate under a totally different hypothesis: the profit generated by the increase of productivity should be redistributed among shareholders and managers whilst the quest of workers for higher wages and reduction of working time should be considered illegitimate. The contribution of the former is rewarded by high dividends, higher wages, and benefits of another nature whilst the contribution of the latter both to the productive process and the success of the firm have always been considered of an inferior nature if compared with those who actually accept the risk to invest financial capital.

The crucial issue around which much of the debate gravitates is whether or not RWT should be accompanied by a reduction in wages. In the eyes of those who argue against RWT, this proposal is not viewed as a structural policy. Rather, it is viewed as an isolated measure aimed at redistributing a given quantity of work and money among a larger number of persons. In other words, perceived as a policy for ‘sharing out among a greater number of a fixed volume of work and resources’ in their eyes, wage cuts seem inevitable. However, conceived as a structural policy, the introduction of RWT must be seen not as a way of redistributing jobs and resources among a larger number of subjects. Rather it should be seen as a way to ‘manage an ongoing dynamic process which demands less and less work but creates more and more wealth.’ In commenting upon this last claim, Mazzetti argues that

Once understood the nature of the increase of productivity ... it becomes clear that the relation between giving and having it is not one-sided. In fact, any increase of productivity is but an increase in the ability to give. Hence, with the same resources and time it is possible to produce more product than before and, even better, more product with less resources and time. Consequently, the possibility to obtain the same wage even if for a diminished working time cannot be excluded a-priori.

Although it is apparent that RWT implies some costs, it would be unreasonable to ask the workers to bear them in full. An economic system which, because it uses less and less labour, distributes lower and lower wages, would inexorably descend the slippery slope of pauperisation. Furthermore, an excessive loss of purchasing power as a result of wage-cutting would have negative macroeconomic effects. Indeed, it would significantly reduce the internal demand for a large number of goods and services, so weakening the whole productive mechanism. If so, the present level of remuneration should not decrease. However, since the costs inherent in the implementation of such a structural policy might be high, for reasons of both political and economic realism it would be equally wrong to charge them entirely to the productive system. This strategy, in fact, is very likely to increase inflation rates as it would significantly increase the relative price of both goods and services that are ‘very labour intensive and have low rates of productivity growth.’ Hence, once this structural policy is introduced, entrepreneurs should benefit from appropriate schemes of tax relief and other fiscal incentives.

As, to a large degree, the costs related to the introduction of both UBI and RWT will necessarily fall on general taxation, it is worth saying that the implementation of a structural policy aimed at reducing unemployment (via the reduction of average working hours) in combination with a policy aimed at increasing the internal demand (via the provision of a UBI set at an appropriate level), would have beneficial effects on the public budget in terms of reduced public expenditure, creating the grounds for their own financing. On the one hand, the introduction of UBI, allowing its recipients to have an additional amount of money to spend on the final market of goods and services, would noticeably increase indirect taxation, as a result of the increased internal demand. On the other hand, reducing the unemployment rate RWT would automatically reduce unemployment costs while increasing the number of tax-payers. Under these circumstances, it is fairly apparent that the amount of money that the State might redistribute would be certainly higher than that which is available at present.

Before bringing our reasoning to an end, there is one final, but apparently powerful argument, often utilised by free marketers against the introduction of these two structural policies that should be dealt with. They claim that, once operationalized, these policies would inspire a significant segment of the able population to contribute as little as possible to the system of social cooperation, abjuring work ‘for a life of idle fun.’ As we shall see, both at normative and practical level this objection is defective. Drawing upon anthropological, historical, and sociological analyses it is easy to see how bogus is the idea that humans would prefer an idle rather than active life. Such a position has been upheld by Marx when he pointed out that work is the essence of human beings. In his opinion, the history of human civilization shows that we become what we really are through our work activity. This means that, on Marx’s reading, a person becomes a fully-fledged human being, if, and only if, she ‘impresses the mark of his humanity upon everything.’ Even during the twentieth century, the belief that human beings cannot exist but by working, has gained wide acceptance. For instance, in one of her major works The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt declared that labour

is the activity which corresponds to the biological process of the human body, whose spontaneous growth, metabolism, and eventual decay are bound to the vital necessities produced and fed into life process by labour. The human condition of labour is life itself.

Drawing upon the above reasoning, it is possible to argue that if persons-in-community were no longer obliged to work exhausting working days, it would not be unreasonable to think that they might dedicate their free time to undertaking economic activities aimed at increasing the quality of life and well-being of others. Indeed, those who claim that once these two structural policies were introduced people would reduce their contribution to the envisaged system of social cooperation might be wrong! At a practical level, there is little evidence to suggest that people would be happy to spend their life without contributing to the desired system of social cooperation. Rather, we have seen that such an outcome is very unlikely since a large number of people are already involved in non-market activities. Free from heavy and alienating working chores, their free time would become the vector for the diffusion of broader and richer social norms and values: it ‘could be used to renew the bonds of community and rejuvenate the democratic legacy. A new generation might begin to think and act as common members of the human race, with shared commitments to each other, the community and the larger biosphere.’ Therefore, it is not hazardous to argue that the introduction of this structural policy would not result in a massively idle population.

What the critics of this policy are implicitly arguing is that work is an activity without intrinsic value: for it to be carried out there is the need of external reward of a particular kind. This position has been countered by many political theorists. For example, Giddens noted that work has multiple benefits: it generates income for the individual, gives a sense of stability and direction in life, and creates wealth for the overall society. In a similar vein, Tam argued that there are three main reasons why people need paid work in the labour market. Firstly, the need to produce goods and services that individuals require, second, the autonomy that comes from economic independence, and, thirdly, for the provision of individual self-esteem and fulfillment. This means that incentives to work cannot be narrowly restricted to the prospect of material gain or the threat of material hardship. As Mauro Baranzini noted, although financial incentives are fundamental in determining the quantity and quality of work, there are several surveys that indicate that ‘executives are more motivated by status and power than by financial rewards.’ A propos, the author quoted a study published by the Brookings Institution in 1966, with the title Economic Behaviour of the Affluent. The authors of this study found that ‘The picture of the high-income individual emerging from our study is that of a hardworking executive or professional, whose decisions about how much to work are dictated by the demand of his job or by his health, rather than by taxes or other pecuniary considerations.’

Rather, work incentives can be divided into three main categories: extrinsic, intrinsic, and those arising from the general characteristic of work. Extrinsic incentives are based on positive external ‘rewards’ which are non-pecuniary, and can be defined as prestige, respect, acceptance, recognition and esteem of others. Among intrinsic incentives it is possible to list feelings of satisfaction from using abilities and skills, self-respect, pride of accomplishment, sense of identity. Finally, in interviews with a broad sample of unemployed people from all social strata Schroder found that they even preferred monotonous, tedious, mundane, and boring jobs to a condition of unemployment and indeed, they stressed the fact that work imposes a time structure on them, allows social contacts and gives purpose to their life.

At this final stage it is possible to say that the introduction of these two structural policies may be regarded as necessary for the achievement of the desired socio-economic order. On the one hand, the provision of a UBI set at an appropriate level would promote real freedom for all its recipients by providing ‘the material resources that people need to pursue their aims.’ On the other, RWT, allowing people to manage an ongoing dynamic process which demands less and less work would multiply persons-in-community’s effective opportunities to work in the formal labour market, as well as free part of their time which might be allocated to the domain of reciprocal solidarity.

To conclude, whilst starting from different backgrounds, all those who are committed to implementing these structural policies share an identical premise: their implementation would allow increasing sectors of the population to participate in equal terms in two diverse spheres of social cooperation, based on radically different principles. The first would be represented by a productive domain gravitating around principles informed by the profit-making rationale and competition. The second sphere would be represented by the myriad of individual and collective autonomous economic activities, undertaken within the micro-social universe, gravitating around the principles of reciprocity and mutual cooperation. In this way, it would be possible to assist the advent of a dual society, which is the opposite of the polarized society resulting from the application of market-processes. The autonomy and well-being that the implementation of the way of organizing the economic activity entailed by the political economy of reciprocity would bring about, would enhance both social equality and social cooperation to the point of favouring the emergence of a more cohesive social reality, transforming actually existing market-driven societies into places where persons-in-community would be pleased to live. Domination and oppression would become just a memory of the past. True freedom would finally descend from the realm of dreams to reality.