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Special issue of Cultural Trends

Posted: February 5th, 2024 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | Comments Off on Special issue of Cultural Trends

Do Give Up Your Day Job: Basic Income for artists, and other stories.

Drawing on the growing popularity of Universal Basic Income (UBI), a basic income for artists (BIA) has been posited as a solution to the crisis of declining income and increased precarity amongst artists. As with UBI, the experience of quasi-unconditional cash transfers during the pandemic gave impetus to those who saw BIA as a viable way to provide income directly to precarious artists, minimising the onerous and costly bureaucratic tasks of grant bidding and acquittal. A large-scale BIA trial in Ireland, including 2,000 artists receiving €325 a week for 3 years, offers a potential model whose evaluation is in progress.

UBI has provoked intense debate. Many criticise it as unaffordable, others for reducing the welfare state to cash payments, or ignoring the need for the provision of basic services, or how to organise those industries and services which provide the things on which such basic income is to be spent. UBI’s proponents argue that poverty is already expensive, that a failing post-neoliberal welfare state requires dramatic intervention, and that basic income can coexist alongside basic services, while adding greater flexibility and choice. UBI has therefore been strongly associated with both neoliberal anti-welfare policy and left-wing ‘postcapitalism’.

Alternatively, Basic Income for Artists is not universal, raising various questions of who gets to be classed as an artist for the purpose of such a scheme. How is eligibility decided and what conditions are, or should, be applied to it? Is BIA justifiable while other forms of basic welfare payments are highly conditional? Is a BIA a viable solution to the crisis of artists’ incomes, which also relates to student debt, lack of affordable housing, lack of paid cultural employment and casualisation?

Further, how does BIA relate to the broader UBI vision and associated debates? For example, one of the arguments for UBI is that it frees us from basic poverty and wage-slave drudgery, allowing those who so wish to engage in passion-driven or community-spirited work or practice. Or indeed, to spend it on the horses. Whatever we might think of this, BIA is aimed at facilitating one professional group to do its own work better, potentially solving some of the most significant challenges that serve as barriers to working as artists. Should we see this the same as UBI or more akin to artist fellowships or low-requirement grants (such as Neustart in Germany)? Might we instead look at Job Guarantee schemes, a four-day work week, artists unemployment insurance, or universal basic services as better ways of addressing the issue?

Gathering perspectives from different regions, artforms, and communities, this special issue invites consideration of how basic income schemes in their many guises and frames may impact artists, communities, and the arts sector. To achieve this, the special issue includes a diversity of perspectives, approaches, lenses, and critiques on the topic of Basic Income for Artists.

We invite scholars, artists, activists, policy makers, and practitioners working on issues of political economy, cultural policy, and economic justice in the cultural sector to contribute to this special issue. We welcome submissions from social researchers looking at the spectrum of art and cultural work, and researchers and artists from the global south and from marginalised communities.

This special issue will explore the following themes:

  • Policy and practical issues around basic income and the future of work in the arts and cultural sector.
  • Precarious and insecure work in the cultural and creative industries.
  • Inequalities in working life in the cultural and creative industries.
  • International comparisons of work in the cultural and creative industries
  • How does basic income differ to other arts funding schemes?
  • What critiques exist of basic income generally and basic income for artists specifically?
  • What policies, practices and initiatives are in place for workers and stakeholders in the cultural and creative industries?
  • How do we manage technologies, flexible work, and caring in the cultural and creative industries?
  • How do work structures and income impact individual arts workers and their experiences?

The planned special issue will be supported by a series of curated panels, workshops, and papers on the special issue topic at the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) conference in Bath, August 2024. Attendance of this conference is not a prerequisite for submitting a paper to the special issue, but it is encouraged. Hybrid and timezone sensitive options will be incorporated into this. More information on this will be provided in the first half of 2024.

Special issue editors:

Dr Sam Whiting, University of South Australia
Professor Justin O’Connor, University of South Australia
Associate Professor Tully Barnett, Flinders University 


Abstracts due – 5 April
Notifications – 19 April
Full articles due – 26 July

Initial feedback – 23 August (possibly earlier depending on submission)

Peer review process – 27 September

Please send abstracts, questions, and correspondence to Sam Whiting, [email protected]