Basic Income as an Emerging Strategic Action Field? A Qualitative Investigation of the Actors and Discussions Shaping the Concept of Basic Income

Bontu Lucie Guschke

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Triggered by the fear of mass unemployment, growing inequality and consistent challenges to combat poverty, discussion about basic income as a possible future perspective increasingly enter the debate between social activists, researchers, politicians, as well as the general public. However, most people who debate the idea of basic income have their own conception of the phenomenon and some of those conceptions are quite dissimilar. There has been extensive academic research on basic income. Yet, studies are commonly concerned with normative, theoretical, or empirical evidence-based arguments for or against the concept, while there is a lack of research that aims at understanding these dissimilarities by studying the field of basic income. This thesis sets out to investigate the actors who shape the concept of basic income as they discuss it and organize around it. The study further examines in how far the field of basic income constitutes an emerging strategic action field. The field is investigated inductively, yet employing Fligstein and McAdam’s (2015) theory of fields as a framework that helps scrutinize the different actors, their position in the field and their ability to act. Based upon a qualitative analysis of more than 65 pages of text from different sources, published mainly in the last three years (2016-2018) by and about the most important actors, the thesis finds that the field of basic income is rather fractured. It discovers that dominant actors in the field can most visibly be classified along their different perception and proclamation of who will benefit from a basic income. Underneath that, they vary in terms of their underlying conceptualization of the relationship between work and income. The study suggests that, even though the idea of basic income brings together a variety of different actors, these actors did not succeed yet to create a shared identity in the field. The concept of boundary reactivation is developed to explain that this identity creation is needed to reactivate a new boundary around the concept of basic income to build a stable strategic action field (SAF). The implications of the study are three-fold. First, it proposes actors in the field of basic income to re-consider their strategies in the field in order to reactivate a new boundary around basic income as a SAF. Second, it encourages researchers to further investigate different angles of basic income as an emerging field. Third, it contributes to SAF theory by offering a more nuanced understanding of the process of field emergence.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages98
SupervisorsEster Barinaga