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Journal of Baltic Studies
ISSN: 0162-9778 (Print) 1751-7877 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rbal20
Domesticating the future?: Citizen’s income
discussion in Estonia
Martin Aidnik & Erle Rikmann
To cite this article: Martin Aidnik & Erle Rikmann (2018): Domesticating the future?: Citizen’s
income discussion in Estonia, Journal of Baltic Studies, DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2018.1470100
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01629778.2018.1470100
Published online: 10 May 2018.
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Domesticating the future?: Citizen’s income discussion
and Erle Rikmann
Institute of Social Sciences, Tallinna Ulikool, Tallinn, Estonia;
Department of Social Sciences and
Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Citizen’s income is an idea that is currently gaining ground in many parts of the
world. The prospect of disappearing jobs and social exclusion that the globalized
world faces has given the idea of guaranteed income a new urgency. This article is a
pilot sociological study of the citizen’s income discussion in post-socialist Estonia.
The article is based on qualitative research: interviews with experts from diﬀerent
ﬁelds and an analysis of print media. Four systematic approaches to citizen’s income
are diﬀerentiated in the paper. We analyze the views on the idea in order to explore
their signiﬁcance for the Estonian economic status quo and welfare state.
KEYWORDS Citizen’s income; Estonia; economy; neoliberalism; Utopia; globalization; domestication; worlds of
The contemporary world is characterized by remarkable insecurity. The unequal dis-
tribution of economic resources and the crises of global markets have damaged the
stability and cohesion of societies. The austerity politics of leading ﬁnancial institutions
has hit low-income earners and those relying on state support the hardest. The
sustainability of the economic growth paradigm has come under increased scrutiny,
but so has the adequacy of the welfare state for twenty-ﬁrst century challenges (Healy,
Murphy, and Reynolds 2013, 116). There are doubts whether the welfare state model is
suﬃcient for the threat of social exclusion and the prospect of disappearing jobs. The
shortcomings of the welfare state model have generated discussion about alternative
solutions. Universal basic income (UBI) or citizen’s income occupies a prominent
position among these alternatives. Citizen’s income, which would guarantee a modest
income regardless of working, has been both a matter of discussion and experimenta-
tion in many parts of the world. Basic Income Earth Network, a global forum for
debate on citizen’s income, deﬁnes citizen’s income as ‘a periodic cash payment
unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work
requirement’(BIEN). What is currently novel is the interest that has been shown in the
idea in public discussion beyond experts and support groups.
This article is a pilot
study of the citizen’s income discussion in post-socialist Estonia.
CONTACT Martin Aidnik email@example.com Tallinna Ulikool, Tallinn, Estonia
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES, 2018
© 2018 Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies
Since independence in 1991, market-centered liberalism has dominated Estonian
economics and politics. Diﬀerent government coalitions have prioritized economic
freedom and competitiveness in their politics. These shared aspirations have created a
favorable business environment and developing (information) technology sector. The
aim has not only been a reorientation to liberal democracy but also has been a ‘model
student’in the project of the Washington Consensus (Kattel and Raudla 2012, 2). The
relative success of recreating a representative democracy together with an open-
market economy has meant Estonia has been perceived as a model for a new –
more dynamic and individualistic –Europe (Galbraith 2014, xv). This view has only
been consolidated since the 2008 economic crisis, which Estonia managed to over-
come rather quickly and which had little impact on the Estonian status quo.
Estonian social experts, politicians, and economists ﬁrst encountered the idea of
citizen’s income in the late 1980s, when the fall of the Iron Curtain led to Milton
Friedman’s(2013) idea of introducing negative income tax. These ideas were aban-
doned due to the lack of resources, and a ‘thin’social support system was built instead
(Bohle and Greskovits 2012).
Citizen’s income has remained a marginal topic in Estonia. One of the important
reasons for this is that the limited welfare state has not been seriously challenged in
political discourse or in public debates. Neither has there been much discussion about
alternatives to the current arrangements although inequality has increased in Estonia
as well (OECD Income Inequality Update). Hence, this study seeks to understand views
on the paradigm that is increasingly gaining ground in the world and less because of
its current urgency in Estonia, in a society that gives the impression of being hostile or
at least unfamiliar with citizen’s income. This study will enable a scholarly perspective
into the emergence of a new thought paradigm and thereby expand our knowledge
of a possible and important future prospect.
A wider audience in Estonia encountered the concept of citizen’s income before
the parliamentary election of 2011. At the time, the Green Party expressed support for
the idea and incorporated it into its election manifesto. The small Green Party is the
only political party in Estonia that has voiced its support for citizen’s income. Given
Estonia’s political landscape and the marginal standing of the Greens, it is not
surprising that the reaction to the idea was mixed and that larger political parties
continued to ignore it.
A new wave of interest in citizen’s income appeared 2 years later. In 2013, Estonia
achieved third place in a European Citizen’s Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income.
In Estonia, 4,884 signatures were gathered and this amounts to 0.30% of the overall
population. Only Slovenia and Croatia did better. This result was achieved despite little
coordinated eﬀort and limited media interest. Expectations for a renewal of the social
system and attempts to grasp socially innovative ideas were said to be the explanation
behind the interest (Nurmoja 2014).
Since 2016, citizen’s income has been gaining more attention in Estonia due to a
couple of European initiatives, most importantly, the launch of Finland’sbasic
income pilot project in 2017. Market Research Baltics (2016)conductedarecent
survey about citizen’s income involving 630 people. The survey was ordered by the
Institute of Social Studies. The survey showed that people think citizen’sincome
should be as high as the average salary in Estonia. If this were the case, then 62%
of respondents would be willing to give up working. In addition, the topic has
received coverage in radio and on television. By the end of 2016, the newspapers
2M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
Päevaleht (The Daily Newspaper), Äripäev (The Business Daily), and Õhtuleht (The
Evening Newspaper) had published approximately 10 opinion articles on citizen’s
income. Discussion has taken place on Internet forums. Besides from the Market
Research Baltics survey, however, no sociological studies in Estonia have hitherto
engaged with the topic of citizen’s income; the issue has not been taken up by
This article aims to provide a pilot sociological study of the citizen’s income discussion
in Estonia in order to map and analyze it. Relying on interviews and print media analysis,
we have diﬀerentiated four more or less systematic approaches: (1) universal, (2) citizens
only, (3) with paid public services, and (4) a state-managed fund with free public services.
The study material is comprised of six in-depth semi-structured interviews with experts
from diﬀerent social ﬁelds like politics, ﬁnance, and social science. They can be considered
opinion leaders in the Estonian public realm, and their views have authority in their own
respective social ﬁelds. The interviews were conducted between October 2015 and June
2016. The interviewees were selected on the basis of their previous knowledge of and
interest in the topic of citizen’s income. The sample is comprised of both men and women
and of opponents and proponents of the concept.
Additionally, the study utilizes 11 articles and opinion pieces, which were published
between 2010 and 2016 in Estonia’s largest daily and weekly newspapers Päevaleht,
Äripäev, and Õhtuleht. Four of the articles oppose citizen’s income but seven of them
either support it or are sympathetic toward the idea. Television and radio coverage
about citizen’s income along with discussion on Internet forums form the background
sources of this inquiry.
The study material has been analyzed with the method of directed qualitative
content analysis (Hsieh and Shannon 2005). The categories of analysis are derived
from the interview questions and from the textual logic of the topic. Thereafter, we
turn to Olausson’s(2014) theory of diﬀerent modes of domestication and Boltanski
and Thevenot’s(2006) theory of worlds of justiﬁcation in order to conceptualize the
arguments of the opponents and proponents of citizen’s income and analyze how the
idea is domesticated in Estonia. Lastly, we inquire if citizen’s income is understood to
be a utopia, meaning fundamentally diﬀerent from the current market economy and
(limited) welfare state. The main emphasis in this paper lies in the analysis of the
interviews and on achieving a better understanding of the diﬀerent (simultaneously
evolving) approaches to citizen’s income. In doing so, this article will investigate the
state of the discussion about citizen’s income and provide an interpretation of the
current situation surrounding this idea in Estonia. We observe how the topic evolves
with its diﬀerent logics of argumentation, approaches, and points of (dis)agreement. In
terms of citizen’s income studies, we apply the concept of domestication to the
phenomenon under question. We map the beginning phase of possible long term
changes. This can help to better understand the future developments of this idea in
Estonia. In addition, this particular study of Estonia illustrates the evolvement of
citizen’s income discourse in a post-socialist context. We further the understanding
of this evolving discourse through analyzing it in relation to the current post-socialist
status quo –market-centered liberalism and limited discussion of socio-economic
alternatives. Citizen’s income emerges in our study as an alternative to the increasingly
contested, but still rather strong, competition-oriented market liberal paradigm for
which the Baltic states have been bastions since the 1990s.
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 3
In order to contextualize our study and provide a synopsis of the contemporary
state of citizen’s income research, we include surveys of historical citizen’s income
experiments in Canada and Namibia, and the currently existing version of it in Alaska.
We also engage with the citizen’s income discussion and experiment in Finland. We
outline the approaches to citizen’s income in these cases.
Diﬀerent approaches to citizen’s income
The history of the idea of citizen’s income is long. It is already part and parcel of
Thomas More’s sixteenth century work Utopia (More  2003). A more contem-
porary conception of unconditional regular income emerged in the mid-nineteenth
century and became more prominent in late nineteenth century (BIEN history; Winfree
2016). Many diﬀerent (both theoretical and practical) models of citizen’s income are
currently available. The diﬀerences could be who is covered or the range of public
services oﬀered. Many researchers and activists are part of the global citizen’s income
network BIEN, which has provided a forum for citizen’s income discussion since 2004.
Citizen’s income can be envisioned in diﬀerent ways. This becomes evident from
the term we use when speaking about the idea; be it citizen’s or UBI, basic security, or
something else. Ronald Blaschke has diﬀerentiated 24 citizen’s income models in
Germany, where the topic has been known for already quite some time. Blasckhe
has used the following categories for diﬀerentiating the models: category of persons,
monthly amount, calculation base of the amount, ﬁscal requirements, ﬁnancing
sources, institutional formation or administration, allowance for special requirements
(tax funded), handling of other tax funded social transfers, social security regulations,
public infrastructure and services, labor market policy, and additional sociopolitical
basic approaches (Blaschke 2012). Citizen’s income has been a topic of discussion in
Finland since the 1970s. In 2014, the decision to experiment with citizen’s income was
made in Finland and it became part of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government
program. The reasons behind this decision were the question concerning the sustain-
ability of the social system and studies concerning the digitalization of work and the
decreased availability of jobs in the future (De Wispelaere 2015; Perkiö 2016). Johanna
Perkiö (2016) has identiﬁed 17 citizen’s income models in Finland between the years
1984–2016. Perkiö diﬀerentiated them based on the following indicators: (1) the
amount of income, (2) the source of income, (3) other forms of social support (their
existence, amount, and eligibility), and (4) the aim of the allowance (what is the goal
behind the allowance). Perkiö argues that nine of these can be considered distinctly
diﬀerent models of citizen’s income. Citizen’s income discussion was previously limited
to the realms of science and politics in Finland, but the experiment that began in early
2017 has considerably raised the wider public’s awareness of, and interest in, the topic.
The term used in Finland when speaking about citizen’s income is mainly basic income
(perustulo). Yet, in the six interviews that were done for this study, the term citizen’s
income was preferred, as the Estonian media uses this term most often.
Historical citizen’s income experiments and the currently existing
Before continuing with Estonia, we will focus on two historical citizen’s income
experiments in Canada and Namibia and on the currently existing example of this
4M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
idea in Alaska. These will provide important insights into the practical outcomes that
citizen’s income has had in terms of economy and society. Importantly for our study of
the discussion in Estonia, they will also indicate the reasons behind the motivation to
undertake such experiments, or maintain citizen’s income as part of socio-economic
policy, and they provide examples of the diﬀerent approaches to citizen’s income.
The American state of Alaska has had citizen’s income in the form of a Permanent
Fund Dividend (PFD) since 1982. This is the fourth approach in our study, the state-
managed income fund. The PFD was created in order to use the state’s oil revenues to
support social welfare (Widerquist and Sheehan 2012, 12). In other words, the goal of
the fund was to ensure that every Alaskan would beneﬁt from the state’s oil resources
and revenues. It is not the existence of such a fund, called the Alaska Permanent Fund
(APF), that sets Alaska apart from other American states, but because the fund
distributes ﬁnancial resources to every Alaskan annually. The amount of annual pay-
ment depends on the dividend fund returns over a 5-year period. On average, the
payment is between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, or around $5,000 for a family of ﬁve.
The biggest total dividend, in 2008, was $3,269 per person, or $16,345 for a family of
ﬁve (Widerquist and Sheehan 2012, 13). As this is not a suﬃcient amount of money to
live on, it can be designated as partial citizen’s income.
What this means is that the existence of the fund cannot be explained solely by
reference to the state’s oil resources. The fund is as much a result of making use of an
opportunity at the right time, as it is facilitated by oil revenues. Common resources
represent an opportunity everywhere unless they are privatized (Widerquist and
Sheehan 2012, 15). This would be the ﬁrst important claim for the wider citizen’s
income debate. Second, the fund enjoys overwhelming support because of its uni-
versal character, instead of a more limited and targeted welfare policy. It does not
create opposition, as it is not perceived as dividing society but as common social
ownership. The lesson here is the importance of building a constituency (Widerquist
2013). Citizen’s income, looking at Alaska, is a means for creating a sense of shared
resources. This, in itself, does not imply oil resources, but can be understood as a
socially created economic product more broadly.
Canada undertook a citizen’s income experiment in the 1970s: in particular, the
town of Winnipeg and the rural community of Dauphin in Manitoba province between
1974 and 1978. This experiment –known as ‘Mincome,’i.e. minimum income –is the
only one of its kind in North America so far. The experiment’s primary goal was to
assess the social and economic goals of an alternative social welfare system based on
negative income tax (Mason 2017). A Mincome handbook from the 1970s talks about a
basic annual income as a possible ‘eﬃcient way of making sure that all Canadians have
a reasonable and secure home, including those who are working’(Gardner 2016). UBI
is the second approach in our study. The Canadian government that supported
citizen’s income was particularly concerned about how the project could help the
working poor and unemployed. It also guaranteed an annual minimum income for
families (Gardner 2016).
Citizen’sincome is an idea that has re-emerged periodically in Canada after the
Manitoba experiments. It has not become part of social policy due to commonplace
concerns about the costs and the morality of giving people money ‘for free.’There is
considerable social support for citizen’s income in Canada because of the perceived
consequences that poverty and insecurity have for health. A modicum of security
should have a positive impact on health and help reduce health expenditure. In
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 5
addition, some of the best social security programs such as child beneﬁts and income
support for low earners take the principles of citizen’s income as their point of
departure, and could, in principle, be further extended in the future (Forget 2012,
Namibia conducted a 2-year citizen’s experiment in 2008 and 2009. This UBI was
called a Basic Income Grant (BIG) and the amount paid per person was equivalent to a
modest €9 per month. The BIG was paid to all residents below the age of 60 in the
small, low-income village of Otjivero, 100 -km east of the capital of Windhoek. The
pilot project was designed and implemented by the Namibia BIG Coalition, which was
formed of civil society organizations from unions to churches (Haarmann and
Haarmann 2012,33–34). The BIG was primarily meant to tackle Namibia’s inequality
and poverty. Poverty and severely limited life expectancy coexist with highly concen-
trated wealth. In 2002, the Namibian government’s appointed tax commission (the
NAMTAX Commission) regarded inequality as both a matter of injustice and an
impediment to economic growth. The BIG was the tax commission’s proposal (Jauch
Why, then, was it not continued after 2009? Why did the basic income remain a
brief experiment in Namibia? Namibia’s political elite, instead of studying the experi-
ment results, viewed the BIG as unrealistic, unfeasible, or simply naive. As in Canada,
giving away money ‘for nothing’is deemed irrational and not part of sustainable
governance. The critical intervention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the
second reason why the idea stalled. The IMF also argued that the BIG was not
aﬀordable, but did so based on incorrect calculations (Jauch 2016; Haarmann and
Haarmann 2012, 53). In addition, Coelho (2016) argues that corporate interests played
a signiﬁcant role in undermining basic income in Namibia because they beneﬁt from
the current status quo, insecurity and a survival economy. Stereotypes and private
economic interests among the elite weakened the prospects of basic income in
The impact of the dividend fund or UBI has been considerable in all three countries. It
has helped to tackle poverty in Alaska, and keep poverty rates low compared to most
other American states. It has helped Alaska become the most economically equal state
in America (Widerquist 2013). It is no wonder, then, that the fund is extremely popular
in Alaska and called the ‘third rail of Alaska politics,’implying its near-untouchable
status for politicians. The fund is perceived as democratizing oil resources, rather than
as an anti-poverty or pro-equality program (which it happens to be in practice). The
results of the experiment were remarkably positive in Namibia as well. First, poverty
declined signiﬁcantly: the percentage of the population deﬁned as ‘severely poor’fell
from 86% to 68% after only 1 year while food poverty decreased from 76% to 37% in
the same period. Households, where the grant was paid universally, experienced even
more rapid improvement. Second, the education situation (the village of Otjivero has
one primary school) improved because parents could aﬀord school fees. Third, and
contrary to expectations, economic activity beneﬁtted from the BIG both in terms of
declining unemployment and rising average income per capita. Self-employment
experienced the greatest upturn with an increase of 301%; the retail and the clothing
manufacture sectors thrived the most (Haarmann and Haarmann 2012,38–48).
6M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
In Canada, the results of the Dauphin experiment remained unknown for several
decades because they were shelved due to changes in the political and economic
terrain. Appetite for social experiments ended in the 1970s because the Conservative
government that followed the Mincome project showed little interest in continuing it
or researching the results (Gardner 2016). Regarding the results that were analyzed
only around 2010, there were deﬁnite positive developments. First, citizen’s income
de-stigmatized social support because it was automatic and did not require an
application (Calnitsky 2016). Dauphin students seemed to stay in school beyond the
mandatory age; this applied especially to adolescent males. Hospitalizations related to
mental health issues and ‘accidents and injuries,’two areas related to poverty,
declined. The anticipated negative outcomes did not occur. There was no signiﬁcant
eﬀect on employment for primary earners. Work incentives did not decline (Forget
The outcomes of the two diﬀerent approaches to citizen’s income are broadly
positive in all three cases, the provision of economic safety and continuing work
incentives being the most signiﬁcant of them. In terms of the discussion, aspiring
toward a new welfare model and opposition to the status quo should be taken into
Citizen’s income paradigm in Finland
We now turn to the Finnish citizen’s income experiment, which has received a lot of
attention globally. Discussing Finland’s experiment will foreshadow a comparative
study on Estonia and Finland’s developments on this matter. Finland has progressed
the furthest with the implementation of citizen’s income. Their pilot project began at
the start of 2017. Next, we will give an overview of the reasons behind the Finnish
experiment and provide an insight into their debate.
The chosen citizen’s income model in Finland is based on the principle of cost
neutrality (Kela 2017). This means that it should not have a considerable eﬀect on
income and the state budget needs to remain balanced. Cost neutral citizen’s income
is a relatively limited solution among the possible models; it is perceived to be
ineﬃcient in raising work motivation (Kannas and Kärkkäinen 2014). The relation
between citizen’s income and work, work motivation, and the labor market has,
however, been an important issue both in research and in deliberations on diﬀerent
citizen’s income models. Expert interviews were conducted with employment agency
oﬃcials and with representatives of local governments and non-governmental orga-
nizations (NGOs) (Koistinen, Kurvinen, and Luoma-Halkola 2016). There was an agree-
ment among the interviewed experts that measures, which supported employment
and movement into work, should be developed. On the other hand, their views on
these measures and on citizen’s income models diﬀered. Support for citizen’s income
was not unanimous.
Citizen’s income was perceived as a measure for low-income earners and people
running small businesses. In addition, it was perceived as a source of additional
security for those with irregular income (Koistinen, Kurvinen, and Luoma-Halkola
2016,45–46). This could mean that small businesses would focus on work that is
necessary but does not provide suﬃcient income. Such developments are understood
to be possibilities and the pilot project will determine their viability. Koistinen,
Kurvinen, and Luoma-Halkola (2016, 45) argue that the impact of citizen income on
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 7
the labor market is comparable to that of the minimum wage in economics because it
increases workers’income. The aims of minimum income have changed over the
years, and this creates space for a new support system. Furthermore, employers
would beneﬁt from citizen’s income because employment risks related to hiring
young and inexperienced workers would decrease. Most of the interviewed experts
supported partial citizen’s income.
Full citizen’s income has its own proponents among experts who perceived it as an
eﬃcient welfare and equality creating measure. The amount suggested was mostly
€600–800, and capped at €1200 (Koistinen, Kurvinen, and Luoma-Halkola 2016,
46–47). Greater equality was among the central arguments for citizen’s income in
the interviews. Finnish proponents argued that rural areas would beneﬁt from citizen’s
income. A secure source of income would be a means for re-invigorating rural areas.
Groups undertaking insecure or currently unpaid work would signiﬁcantly beneﬁt. This
includes freelance workers, carers, people doing seasonal or part time work, and
university students. Citizen’s income, proponents argue, would ease the transition
from education to work. Social protection and providing value to the kinds of work
that are currently unpaid are also arguments in the Finnish case. The negative eﬀects
of individualization, of individualized responsibility, would be mitigated.
The main argument against citizen’s income in the Finnish discussion is that it
would be too expensive. Furthermore, there is ambiguity in the support Finland’s
leftwing politics for citizen’s income. There are those who understand the idea as a
step forward in terms of contemporary challenges (i.e. job insecurity and automation).
Finnish unions, on the other hand, have historically tended to oppose citizen’s income
for fear that it would drive down collective bargaining and weaken workplace regula-
tions (Sodha 2017). Finland’s Central Organization of Trade Unions, which has over
one million members, has declared the idea unworkable and uneconomical. According
to Finland’s largest union, citizen’s income may reduce the labor force by encouraging
people to turn down unattractive jobs. It may create inﬂationary bottlenecks, thereby
increasing the government deﬁcit by ﬁve percent (Tiessalo 2017). Therefore, both
support for, and criticism of, citizen’s income transcends the traditional right and
left political spectrum. The Finnish union organization’s stance can at least partly be
explained by the strength of unions in the country and the fears that citizen’s income
would weaken labor organization.
In the Finnish experiment, 2,000 randomly selected unemployed people between
the ages of 25 and 58 will receive €560 a month for 2 years from the Finnish
government. This basic income replaces their unemployment beneﬁts, but they will
continue to receive the income regardless of whether or not they ﬁnd work (Henley
2017; Reilly 2017). Given the conditionality of being unemployed, the Finnish experi-
ment is a variant from citizen’s income, rather than a principled implementation of the
idea, as deﬁned by BIEN.
The results of the Estonian study: diﬀerent approaches to citizen’s
income and underlying models
Citizen’s income is a relatively new topic in Estonia and hitherto it has received little
public coverage. Concrete models or solutions to citizen’s income are not presented in
the interviews or in the media. Thus, we preferred Perkiö’s less complicated fourfold
framework for our analysis (Perkiö 2016). The respondents used diﬀerent elements
8M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
from the approaches and their diﬀerentiation results from the study. Treating these
diﬀerent approaches as evolving models is a sociological abstraction. In Estonia, the
term that is used the most often has been citizen’s income (kodanikupalk). Terms such
as guaranteed income (garanteeritud sissetulek), national grant (rahvuslik toetus), and
helicopter money (helikopteriraha, i.e. money that is ‘thrown from a helicopter’) appear
much more infrequently.
When speaking about citizen’s income in Estonia, the question concerning elig-
ibility emerges. Who should be the recipients? This question helps to diﬀerentiate the
two dominant approaches: universal and citizens only. The topic has also been ﬁercely
debated in the theoretical literature (Pateman and Murray 2012, 4). UBI is diﬀerent
from citizen’s income because it stipulates the eligibility of all adult members of
society and not only citizens. In the latter instance, citizen’s income is part of citizen’s
rights. Those who support UBI argue that basic income should not be exclusive, and
that it is therefore not right to have citizenship as a condition for eligibility. The
condition for those without citizenship should rather be a minimum length of past
residence or simply the conditions that deﬁne the residence for tax purposes.
Proponents of UBI consider it necessary that children and pensioners are also eligible
for basic income even if the amount of income would be smaller compared to the
amount that adults would receive (Van Parijs 2004, 10).
In Estonia, basic income is generally (both in the interviews and in media) perceived
as a good that presupposes citizenship. Citizenship, in addition to Estonian citizenship,
can also mean EU citizenship. In the experts’interviews, however, the idea of a
broader (more or less unconditional) guaranteed income emerges. It is stated that
there is a rather signiﬁcant number of people without citizenship living in Estonia
(6.5% according to the 2011 population survey, Statistical Oﬃce of Estonia (Statistics
Estonia) 2011, 1), or Russian citizenship (7% according to the 2011 population survey,
Statistical Oﬃce of Estonia (Statistics Estonia) 2011, 2). Those who support UBI in
Estonia do not think that citizen’s income is unjust in itself. The injustice lies in the
diﬃculty of acquiring Estonian citizenship. In conditions where acquiring Estonian
citizenship would be uncomplicated, citizen’s income could have positive conse-
quences. According to one respondent:
Put in another way, citizen’s income could be the gain that would tempt people to acquire
Estonian citizenship like free public transport. In Tallinn, people have had the incentive to
register themselves in Tallinn.
But as long as acquiring Estonian citizenship is like performing
an acrobatic stunt, the diﬀerence between these two remains signiﬁcant. (Interview 2016)
The social experts in the sample who support UBI argue that it should include both
children and pensioners. The perceived impact of UBI would be alleviating insecurity
and lessening inequality. Another respondent argued that diﬀerent forms of state-
provided conditional income already exist and therefore UBI would not be as radical
as it is sometimes envisioned: ‘We cannot imagine older people living without a
pension. But at the same time, we can easily imagine people living without basic
income, without dignity. This we can imagine. . . This is not only Estonia’s problem’
In the authors’opinion, citizen’s income would be meaningful if it were uncondi-
tional. If it were, instead, conditional, it would only deepen the current welfare system
and its shortcomings such as bureaucracy and inability to secure an adequate level of
subsistence. Applying for the conditional forms of support and allowances is
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 9
emotionally draining especially because the need for them arises in a state of crisis.
Arguably, unconditional basic income would help people retain control over their
lives. Citizen’s income is therefore associated with a more digniﬁed social existence
and protection from the worst vicissitudes of the market economy. Hence, it would
help secure the lower level of the Maslow pyramid (a psychological theory about a
hierarchy of needs), which in turn is a prerequisite for higher levels such as social
participation and self-realization.
The idea of EU-wide citizen’s income is mentioned more than once in the inter-
views. This would balance the social support system in free market arrangements
particularly for more vulnerable peripheral regions.
Citizens-oriented basic income has been the form of guaranteed income that has
received the most print media attention in Estonia. This has taken place in the context
of discussion on this topic in other European countries especially in Finland. Media
reports often state that citizen’s income is not feasible in Estonia. The respondents
who oppose UBI oppose, ﬁrst and foremost the citizens-oriented model, do not
engage with universal models that postulate the eligibility of non-citizens.
The third Estonian citizen’s income approach
This approach is diﬀerentiated based on the availability (or status) of public services.
The respondents who support citizen’s income envision current public services
remaining free. Citizen’s income should not replace state provided health care, educa-
tion, and infrastructure. In addition, the amount of citizen’s income is not exclusively
important because public services complement it, according to one respondent:
Whether this citizen’s income and the arrangement of the rest of the social system. . . is it
sensible to separate them if this conception theoretically envisions the possibility that part of
this income would be received in the form of services and goods and not in the form of money.
Proponents of this model think that citizen’s income would replace currently existing
social beneﬁts, but not the public services, which would complement the universal
income. For example, oﬀering free kindergarten places for children at that age would
be one public service that is part of citizen’s income. The argument is made that the
complementary model would mean a rather modest amount of regular monetary
income, and that developing public services would be based on the currently existing
system, which would be reformed but not thoroughly re-arranged.
For opponents of citizen’s income, the project, together with free public services,
requires social spending on a scale that makes it unfeasible. Some, such as this
respondent, perceive citizen’s income without free public services as a more realistic
possibility, ‘The only justiﬁcation is that if you want to make certain kind of welfare
more sustainable, then you basically simplify the system and give everyone money but
on the other hand you change state provided services, do not make them, and less
In addition, the opponents of citizen’s income ﬁnd that the choice between the
welfare state and citizen’s income is more ideological than it is economic. They do not
approach citizen’s income as deepening the welfare state but as an issue of world-
view; a user-pays model of citizen’s income would replace the current welfare state.
Therefore, according to this argument, citizen’s income would place the burden of
10 M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
responsibility on the individual’s shoulders. People would depend less on the state
and bureaucratic institutions but only at the cost of greater individualized responsi-
bility. Said one interviewee:
I don’t support giving money to people and then making them pay for health care and police
when they need it. Human nature is such that people spend the money in the ﬁrst couple of
months and, for example, when they have to pay for emergency services. . . We always hope
this is not going to happen to us because the money will be gone by that time. (Interview 2016)
The opponents of the idea of citizen’s income perceive it as contradicting the solidar-
ity principle at the heart of the left wing worldview. It is seen more as representing a
Milton Friedman inspired vision of individualistic economy and society.
When speaking about the Finnish citizen’s income pilot project that began at the
start of 2017, some experts viewed the project as hurtful to the most vulnerable
people there, instead of improving their plight as one could imagine:
Finland’s aim is to simplify the social beneﬁts system and to cut spending in this ﬁeld. . . Their
approach is pragmatic. This means that the existing welfare system, which is not sustainable
anyway, will have the carpet pulled from under its feet in a way that can hurt the vulnerable
segments of society the most. (Interview 2016)
The fourth relatively systematic citizen’s income approach
This approach in the Estonian discussion is the state-managed income fund. The fund
would complement currently existing free public services. Similar to the concept of
the Alaska Permanent Dividend Fund one expert said, ‘One of the Estonian economy’s
ﬁnest growth prospects is to mine gravel, sand, to use oil shale and arguably also
phosphorite. Then is it quite reasonable to think that such resources would help to
provide the necessary resources for the fund’(Interview 2016). The arguments of the
opponents of citizen’s income are twofold: ﬁrst, this sort of approach to Estonian
natural resources is neither seen as reasonable nor proﬁtable enough. Second, their
view is that citizen’s income would be detrimental to Estonia’s small, dynamic, and
remarkably open economy.
In conclusion, the interviews indicate that citizen’s income is a relatively new and
rather under-developed concept in Estonia. The views of the people who are inter-
ested in the topic are developing gradually, and elements of diﬀerent (at times even
contradictory) approaches appear in their opinions. The respondents are more at ease
with citing examples about the experiences and developments in other countries, but
placing these thoughts into the Estonian context is only beginning to take place.
Despite the limited number of interviewees, there were many considerable disagree-
ments in their views. This too suggests a lack of public discussion, which makes it
more diﬃcult to outline the core lines of argument for and against. The supporters of
citizen’s income perceive the idea above all else as achieving a more sustainable and
ﬂexible social protection system. The opponents of the idea claim that citizen’s income
aspires toward an ideological change that they do not agree with.
Citizen’s income received very little coverage until 2017 in Estonian newspapers. No
articles, for example, have appeared on this topic in Postimees (The Post Man), one of
the largest and most read newspapers. In the other large daily newspaper Päevaleht,
three articles have appeared since 2010. The ﬁrst is an introductory piece on citizen’s
income by a Green Party politician; the second is a playful article that states that
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 11
citizen’s income should be for ‘the good people’; and the third article postulates that
citizen’s income would add some much needed imagination and sustainability to the
Estonian economy (Lahtvee 2010; Märka 2011; Aidnik 2016). In the tabloid newspaper
Õhtuleht, there have been a couple of introductory and supportive articles on the
topic by the new leader of the Green Party Alexander Laane. There is another piece
that draws attention to the importance of developing a discussion culture, but then
adds that Estonia is not ready for citizen’s income (Laane 2015; Laane 2016; Näf 2016).
Economists and CEOs of big companies have criticized citizen’s income in both the
Õhtuleht and in the business newspaper Äripäev. As in the interviews, they argue that
the idea disregards human nature and reduces incentives to work. It is noteworthy
that Green Party politicians have written most articles that support citizen’s income.
Columnists and social scientists have hitherto overlooked this topic.
The domestication of citizen’s income in diﬀerent ‘orders of worth’in
In order to analyze the emergence of the idea (or paradigm of citizen’s income and its
starting consolidation in Estonia, we have compiled an analytical tool which, on the
one hand, is based on the three discursive modes of domestication by media sociol-
ogist Ulrika Olausson. On the other hand, the tool connects these modes with the
theory by French economic sociologists Boltanski and Thévenot of the six ‘orders of
worth’or ‘worlds’of justiﬁcation that are drawn upon by the social actors carrying out
In her research on the spreading of global news, Swedish media researcher Ulrika
Olausson (2014) has identiﬁed three discursive modes of domestication: (1) introverted
domestication, which disconnects the domestic from the global; (2) extroverted
domestication, which interconnects the domestic and the global; and (3) counter-
domestication, a deterritorialized mode of reporting that lacks any domestic epicenter.
Olausson’s work constitutes criticism against approaches to globalization as a one-way
process. We also think that citizen’s income can be approached as a discursive feature,
which in order to spread, needs to be connected with existing paradigms, argumenta-
tion systems or ‘worlds’of justiﬁcation, and it does not spread simply by exporting
viewpoints. The approaches by Olausson and Boltanski and Thévenot are well suited
for the analysis of news, novel, or controversial topics, and this is citizen’s income in
the Estonian context.
The work of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot was mainly known in the French-
speaking academic community, but since the translation of their book into English in
2006, their approach has become widely inﬂuential in diverse theoretical and sub-
stantive ﬁelds of social science. Their most well-known publication, On Justiﬁcation:
Economies of Worth (2006), focuses on disputes and justiﬁcations in society and
demonstrates how six worlds of worth are applied to advance particular justiﬁcations
on a prominent public issue. These six worlds are market, civic, industrial, inspired,
domestic, and fame. The authors demonstrate how these diﬀerent justiﬁcation sys-
tems have historically developed, which terms and ideas they focus on, and their
mutual relationships. Although, in our opinion, their justiﬁcation logics do not cover all
the existing justiﬁcation worlds (e.g. the religious logic system is clearly underdeve-
loped), even a partial adoption of their approach helps highlight the complex and
multifaceted nature of domesticating a certain way of thinking. According to Boltanski
12 M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
and Thévenot, justiﬁcations of ideas, ways of reasoning or activities may also be based
on several justiﬁcation systems when social actors seek to justify their interests or
intentions with reference to as many worlds of worth as possible. Multiple justiﬁca-
tions rarely integrate arguments from all worlds in equal measure; instead, the
emphasis is on mixtures of some worlds rather than others (see Giulianotti and
The analysis of our data is based on the understanding that, ﬁrst, the spreading of
the topic of citizen’s income in diﬀerent societies follows diﬀerent discursive modes of
domestication, which can be viewed more as activities related to the form of domes-
tication. Second, the consolidation of the topic depends on the plurality of justiﬁcation
logics and on the diﬀerent conceptions of the common good attached to those
diﬀerent logics. Their analysis helps us to better understand the domestication of
the substantive elements of a new idea or discourse and their local developments.
In the analyzed interviews, the tendency that clearly appears is that in talking about
citizen’s income the supporters of the idea applied the extroverted domestication
mode more the detractors. It is a way of connecting developments that have appeared
elsewhere to local conditions and needs, a way of testing and domesticating via
argumentation, step by step, topic by topic, symbol by symbol, of localizing a globally
spreading discourse. In the extroverted domestication mode, it is important where the
examples come from and in how detailed a manner they are connected with the local
context. In this lies the importance of the testing and developments of citizen’s
income in Finland for the emergence of alternative visions of the future in Estonia.
The mode of domestication applied by the critics, however, is introverted domestica-
tion. In ﬁnding support for their views, they emphasize local peculiarities and the
unsuitability of the idea in the local context:
Let’s take resource taxes, in Estonia these are quite high already today. If we want to have an
economy and industry where people can work, then we have to recognize the limits. We have
to compare ourselves to the other states that we are competing with. Our other resources are
comparable, except for coal. We’ve already reached the point where we have to make changes,
not increase but decrease in order to preserve jobs. Estonia is so small. (Interview 2016)
The application of the extroverted or the introverted domestication mode does not
depend solely on the attitude toward the topic. The extroverted domestication mode
seems to assume that both contexts, the local and the external one that serves as the
example, are well known, which enables one to create reliable connections and draw
reliable conclusions. In the Estonian interviews, this mode appeared most often in
respondents with an academic background, while introverted domestication is more
common in politically active respondents.
The third mode, the deterritorialized mode, was applied both by supporters and
critics of citizen’s income in support of their views and in generalizing. These general-
izations could include human nature, the general functioning of states or societies, or
some other ‘generally known fact.’The main function of this mode seems to be
adding extra weight to one’s views, as demonstrated by one respondent, ‘If a com-
pletely healthy person is given monthly the amount of money that is suﬃcient for
making ends meet, then where will this state end up? Human nature is lazy. Who is
going to pay the taxes to pay salaries then?’(Interview 2016).
Returning to the justiﬁcation worlds theory of Boltanski and Thevenot (2006), the
authors describe how legitimate forms of agreement are born in the constant struggle
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 13
of diﬀerent views and logics. They argue that in order to survive and manage criticism,
all such justiﬁcations need higher common principles that in turn refer to the general
interests of humanity (Boltanski and Thevenot 2006,25–42). The system of justiﬁcation
worlds by Boltanski and Thévenot is clearly hierarchical, complex and highly theore-
tical, and we have applied in our analysis only a limited part of it. The part applied in
the analysis can be summarized in three axioms:
(1) Argumentation and justiﬁcation constitute a discursive struggle, which takes
place in the framework of several diﬀerent hierarchical logic systems or worlds.
(2) Similar to Boltanski and Thévenot, we have found traces of six diﬀerent justiﬁ-
cation worlds, which does not mean that this is the ﬁnal number of potential
justiﬁcation systems. It is suﬃcient, however, considering our analysis and the
volume of the article to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the domestica-
tion process of paradigms.
(3) Diﬀerent worlds deﬁne the common good diﬀerently. Nevertheless, all these
worlds are characterized by the fact that particular goals, arguments, etc. are
subordinated to the more general interests of humanity.
When looking for the six justiﬁcation logics by Boltanski and Thevenot (2006, 159–214)
in the interviews conducted in Estonia, the market, industrial, civic and domestic
worlds dominated in talking about citizen’s income. To a certain extent, the inspired
world also appeared, and to a very limited extent, as support to other worlds also
The market world is based, according to Boltanski and Thevenot (2006), on Adam
Smith’s theories where the leading principles include competition, natural rivalries,
and values that develop in market relations between things. The industrial world is
deﬁned by science and technology, and its leading principles are productivity, eﬃ-
ciency, and reliability. The civic world lies on rights, laws, freedom of action, and
collective, or general will. In the logic of the domestic world, ceremonies conﬁrming
solidarity, patriarchal hierarchies, anniversaries, family, locality, honor, shame, and
service, etc. are central. The inspired world emphasizes creativity, brilliance, intuition,
and vision. The legal logic of the fame world centers around the satisfaction of needs,
self-love, attention, public opinion, and recognition.
The main diﬀerences between the argumentation logics used in the interviews by
the supporters and critics of citizen’s income, both in deﬁning problems and seeking
solutions, are presented in Table 1.
The deﬁnitions of the contemporary challenges in the development of state and
society by the supporters of citizen’s income involved elements from four diﬀerent
logics systems and can be summarized as follows: (1) industrial: the problems have
Supporters of citizen’sincome in Estonia Critics of citizen’s income in Estonia
logics in deﬁning
The main argumentation
logics in ﬁnding
in deﬁning problems
The main argumentation
logics in ﬁnding
Industrial Civic Domestic Market
Market Inspired Civic Industrial
Domestic Market Domestic
14 M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
been caused primarily by the development of technology in a situation where pro-
ductivity and eﬃciency have become the leading principles in regulating social
relationships; (2) market relations have replaced humanness and contribute to increas-
ing inequality and injustice; (3) domestic: traditional and patriarchal understanding
and organization of work is the main reason for problems and the factors causing
inequality; and (4) fame: politics is mainly about the satisfaction of egotistical needs in
the name of short-lived stardom and obtaining votes. There is no wish to deal with
In ﬁnding solutions, and particularly in considering citizen’s income as a potential
future alternative, the supporters of citizen’s income found their arguments primarily
from three logic systems:
(1) Civic: the development of society presumes more equality and justice, and
existing measures are unable to oﬀer this. The leaders should make eﬀorts to
increase inclusion and solidarity in society instead of working in the interest of
single social groups.
(2) Inspired: this was used in two diﬀerent ways. First, since known political
measures are no longer able to solve contemporary problems, there is reason
to think and look around to ﬁnd inspiration for new solutions. Second, citizen’s
income would inspire and motivate people to act in new ways, providing them
with better opportunities for the smooth management of life.
(3) Market: the implementation of citizen’s income does not necessarily mean
withdrawal from market relations, but enables one to create a starting position
for social actors that would be more equal than the existing one. The actual
capability for negotiating increases and the market becomes more democratic.
In the criticism of citizen’s income, current problems were deﬁned diﬀerently,
mainly with the help of two logic systems.
(1) Domestic: the state tries to do too much for social actors, intervening with
market logic and hindering its functioning. Such an approach is outdated and
will not advance social development. The state will exhaust itself and will
collapse. This is demonstrated by the increasingly complicated situation in
countries with welfare states.
(2) Civic: more solidarity does not feed anyone. It is a leftwing ideological approach
that needs to be discarded. The state has to be a democratic one and based on
the rule of law, primarily in order to ensure the freedom of the market.
The solutions oﬀered by critics for dealing with current challenges derive from
three logic systems. The main arguments are connected with:
(1) Market: the continuing liberalization of market relations should be supported so that the
market can function as the engine of development without meeting any obstacles that could
(2) Industrial: the development of technology together with the continuing liberalization of the
market helps societies to become more eﬃcient and productive by oﬀering solutions to
(3) Domestic: all members of society must have duties and responsibilities, and they have to
contribute to the life of the state. Only in this way can the common good be increased.
After analyzing the modes of domestication and logics of argumentation in the
debate, we now inquire if citizen’s income is perceived to be a utopia.
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 15
Citizen’s income and/as utopia?
One of the aims of this inquiry is to discern whether citizen’s income is perceived as a
utopia, meaning either that it is perceived as impossible or radically diﬀerent and not
part of the current social order. One of the ﬁrst to write about a guaranteed basic
income was Thomas More in his famous work, Utopia (More  2003). Visionaries
and radicals like Thomas Paine or Martin Luther King have later also raised this topic.
In a recent book, Envisioning Real Utopias, Wright (2010,2–5) argues that citizen’s
income is one of the ‘real utopias’(alongside Wikipedia, the Mondragon workers
collective, and participatory city budgets). For Wright (2010, 6), ‘real utopias’embrace
the tension that exists between social practices and dreams. They are based on a
belief that what is pragmatically possible depends on imagination and vision.
Guaranteed basic income has been a horizon of social aspirations for centuries.
Zygmunt Bauman, theorist of modernity and its transformations, makes the case for
such income in his book In Search of Politics (Bauman 1999). Bauman does not
consider basic income utopian. It is liberal democracy however, that he views as a
utopia, as an unﬁnished form of society that needs persistent engagement. The
book addresses the perceived crisis of liberal democracy (Bauman 1999, 154). The
crisis stems from the decline of institutions that sustain collective freedom.
Burgeoning individualism, the new status quo, cannot live up to expectations
because individuals have only a very limited capacity to determine or inﬂuence
the direction of society. Therefore, contemporary societies have largely lost the
ability to pursue alternatives. Their freedom is more illusory than real. Citizen’s
income for Bauman (1999, 188) is an empowering measure both in terms of being a
citizen and having real freedom to choose. The re-emergence of utopia (together
with citizen’s income) would further the scope for democratic and autonomous
society. In his very last work, Retrotopia,Bauman(2017) again expresses his support
for citizen’s income (in the form of UBI) as a credible and relevant measure to
address the problems of the social divisiveness of means-tested beneﬁts and, in
particular, increasing global inequality. Bauman (2017, 117) states, ‘the vitality of
the UBI project, as one of the few essential ingredients of the contemporary “utopia
for realists,”can be utilized as a uniquely powerful weapon in the struggle to
reverse that gruesome, potentially catastrophic trend’.
The notion of a ‘utopia’is undoubtedly emotionally charged. Most deride it as
inherently unrealistic, mere wishful thinking or consider it outright dangerous. This
seems particularly true in post-socialist countries. Utopian ideas have mostly no place
in political discourse. Declaring something ‘utopian’is a form of rejection in the
political realm. We studied whether citizen’sincome is associated with utopia and
how feasible the idea is considered. Is citizen’s income idle daydreaming or a feasible
(non-radical) idea that already exists in some form?
Opponents of the idea declare sarcastically in our interviews that it is a ‘nice
Marxist-utopian idea’that has no other purpose than to change mechanisms of
redistribution. Securing minimum subsistence is not impossible, but it is too costly
in practice. More speciﬁcally, opponents thought that raising taxes would ruin the
business and investment environment. This would be worse than any positive out-
come from basic income. According to the worst possible scenario, a society would be
created where value creation is stiﬂed because of redistribution, and where people
would have no motivation to contribute to society. Citizen’s income, then, would be
16 M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
an example of dystopia inherent in utopias, as Friedrich Hayek argues in The Road to
Serfdom (Hayek 2002).
The utopianism of citizen’s income for its supporters means a number of challenges
in furthering the prospects of the idea. These misconceptions cloud any fair under-
standing of what citizen’s income may or may not entail. Without much consideration,
it is labeled ideological or utopian. It is still thought that a wage must be earned (in
the conventional way it is today). Citizen’s income is not a prospect for the next few
years; it requires signiﬁcant changes in how people think.
On the other hand, we are dealing with an idea that is a positive utopia in the
sense of social reconstruction. As one respondent said:
This is such a well thought out measure that we know how to achieve it. We don’t know how to
achieve other things that are given as challenges, but here we have already reached a certain
point. We need political agreements, we need to convince people but we are in our way, right.
. . . it is practical enough. It is a utopia in the sense of a vision of a new society, but it is much
more practical than a normal utopia. (Interview 2016)
Citizen’s income is utopian in a positive sense because it is both possible and a
solution to some important social problems. It is not abstract or unfeasible like utopias
are often considered. On the contrary, it combines the vision that we associate with
utopias with practical and concrete social change.
The other view that both the supporters and critics of citizen’s income have is that
it is not a utopia because it exists in some parts of the world. One example is Alaska. In
Alaska’s case, an interviewee claimed that citizen’s income would be possible in
Estonia in the same way because there are no signiﬁcant diﬀerences between the
two. Nevertheless, the oil revenue-based Alaskan scheme, like a similar model existing
in the United Arab Emirates, appears to be a privilege of resource-rich states. Despite
the optimistic assessment of the interviewee regarding the potential of oil shale,
Estonia simply does not have at this time the necessary levels of income from
resources; hence the only option would be loans and cutting public services. Again,
this would be asking too much. Citizen’s income is not a utopia globally; the problem
is that Estonia does not have the preconditions that this idea currently requires.
The view that denies the utopianism of citizen’s income, perceives it rather as a
gradual change. Conditional forms of income such as health insurance and social
beneﬁts exist already. Unconditional basic income is a step forward from these current
arrangements. In addition, citizen’s income is ﬁrst and foremost a political decision.
According to this way of thinking, it is above all else, a question of political will and
decision-making and less a question of economic feasibility.
Lastly, we will analyze the views on utopia through the prisms of domestication
and logics of justiﬁcation explained in the previous paragraph. Views on whether
citizen’s income is utopian can be better understood in light of domestication modes
and diﬀerent argument tropes. Proponents of the idea do not perceive it as utopian
because they connect the local to the global, to global tendencies, which are likely to
necessitate changes in economic organization. They argue that forms of citizen’s
income exist already, including in Alaska. Their opponents tend to deploy more
counter-territorialized arguments, as in the case of ‘nice Marxist utopian idea,’or the
moral argument about not deserving something ‘for nothing.’Drawing on the market
and domestic logics of justiﬁcation, they argue that the damage done to these worlds
would outweigh the positive outcomes. The proponents of citizen’s income do not
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 17
think it is utopian in a negative connotation because of extroverted domestication and
political will, which in turn relates to civic and inspired logics of justiﬁcation.
Those who have an interest in citizen’s income do not perceive it as an unfeasible
or impossible idea. It is rather the lack of political will and public discussion generally
that impedes its traction in the mainstream. Domestication of citizen’s income or any
other idea requires public discussion for it to become familiar. Opposing arguments
stem from a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Currently, an EU-wide initiative
is perceived as a better prospect for achieving citizen’s income. The opponents of the
idea focus on the amount of resources it would require and dwell on the perceived
negative economic implications such as damaging competitiveness and value creation
mechanisms. In addition, they put forward a moral argument about entitlement.
Discussion and conclusion
Utilizing interviews with experts and print media analysis, we have diﬀerentiated four
citizen’s income approaches in Estonia. These are as follows: (1) universal, (2) citizens
only, (3) with paid public services, and (4) a state-managed fund-based approach with
free public services. For the supports of citizen’s income, it is a clear step toward a
stronger welfare state. It is also an empowering measure for citizens that secures
subsistence and opens up new possibilities for self-realization. The Estonian media
generally supports the citizens’only approach whereas the experts we interviewed
tended to prefer a universal approach, which guarantees income for all permanent
The critics’views are broadly twofold. The ﬁrst view recognizes the issues that
citizen’s income seeks to address but supports more traditional measures such as
allowances and greater state intervention. The second view opposes both forms of
welfare creation because these are said to impede competitiveness. The hitherto
dominant market-centered approach is seen as justiﬁed beyond dispute. Estonia
has been one of the most economically successful countries in eastern Europe since
it regained its independence because of its favorable business and tax
At the core of the Estonian citizen’s income discussion is a choice between two
socio-economic systems, the current liberal market order or a stronger welfare state.
We analyzed how citizen’s income is domesticated and associated with these two
orders. Those who associate citizen’s income with the paradigm of a stronger welfare
state would prefer radical changes to the status quo. Representing the extroverted
domestication mode, they look for solutions in the rest of the world and consider
them relevant to Estonia. Their main justiﬁcations derive from the civic, inspired, and
The connections between the current economic system and citizen’s income come
to the fore the most in the critics’arguments and their mode of domestication. The
connections between a liberal market economy and citizen’s income are made pri-
marily with reference to alarming examples from abroad, and through distancing
Estonia from experiments taking place in other parts of the world. The critics’justiﬁca-
tions rely on the logics of market, industrial, and domestic worlds. In Finland, the main
arguments for undertaking a citizen’s income experiment have been eﬃciency and
cost reduction. The results and impact of the Finnish experiment should enable one to
observe the critics’reaction and possible changes in their approach. In addition, the
18 M. AIDNIK AND E. RIKMANN
Finnish experiment should indicate whether new approaches, domesticated by the
liberal market economy, will emerge.
Speaking about the third wave of democratization and its prospects in general,
Huntington (1991, 311) has said: ‘Poverty is a principle and probably the principle
obstacle to democratic development. The future of democracy depends on the
future of economic development.’The recent rise of right wing populism and
technocratic austerity in Europe and the rest of the world indicate that not only
transition states without a strong tradition of democracy are vulnerable. The crisis
of democracy that has resulted from economic inequality is becoming a global
reality. Historical experiments, like the Canadian citizen’s income experiment in the
1970s and a more recent experiment in Namibia in the late 2000s, indicate that
citizen’s income can achieve signiﬁcant results in tackling poverty and widening
peoples’opportunities in education and the labor market (Forget 2012;Haarmann
and Haarmann 2012).
At the time of commencing work on this article, in autumn 2016, the Estonian
government changed signiﬁcantly. The Reform Party, which had been the dominant
party in the government for 17 years, left the ruling coalition. Parties that have never
worked together have formed a new coalition. The biggest changes are planned in the
realms of tax and social support policies. This change, however, does not signify the
radicalization that we have witnessed elsewhere. It is a very centrist coalition.
Universal social protection is also increasingly gaining support among social protec-
tion approaches in Estonia.
The emergence of a new understanding of society and the abandonment of the
current (neo)liberal paradigm are not going to take place overnight. The productivist
paradigm and protestant work ethic that fundamentally underpin these, still holds
sway. As Oﬀe(2013, 561) writes, it is easy for us to criticize these issues, much harder
to actually address them. This is undoubtedly true in Estonia. Few countries exemplify
the absence of alternatives to market fundamentalism that Bauman (1999;2017)
identiﬁes as central to the plight of contemporary societies as well as Estonia. The
country has little experience with alternatives to a market-centered social order. The
experience of ‘real existing socialism’has resulted in a continuing ambivalence toward
social experimentation and more collectivist aspirations.
On the other hand, this could change if the experiments in Finland and the
elsewhere are successful in 2017. These experiments provide concrete examples. It
will then be much harder to dismiss citizen’s income as a mere fantasy. Nevertheless,
even if citizen’s income is not perceived as a utopia, decoupling work and income is
still a very remarkable social change because it would result in removing the awesome
ﬂy of insecurity from the sweet ointment of freedom (Bauman 1999, 188; emphasis in
1. For some of the important recent works on basic income and citizen’s income, see Van Parijs and
Vanderborght (2017), Pereira (2017), Standing (2017), Stern (2016), and Torry (2016).
2. In Tallinn, there is free public transport for those who are registered in Tallinn. The number of
people who are registered in Tallinn rose considerably because of this measure.
3. In the opinion of the authors, however, citizen’sincome is possible in the longer term, in
10–20 years, as many current types of jobs disappear and social tensions grow. The main catalysts
for its realization of would be automation and mechanization, as the authors consider citizen’s
JOURNAL OF BALTIC STUDIES 19
income to be the most credible measure for balancing the impact of these developments. In such
a context, citizen’s income would no longer be a utopian idea.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Dr. Erle Rikmann is currently a Marie Curie Actions Intra-European Research (IEF) Fellow at the
University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Prior to coming to Jyväskylä, she held a position at the Research
Department of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu), where she worked as an advisor on social issues
(from 2013 to 2015). From 2005 to 2014 she also worked at the Institute of International and Social
Studies, Tallinn University (Estonia); and since 2009 leaded the Centre for Civil Society Research and
Development. Her research interests are post-socialist transition in Eastern Europe, civil society,
migration, transnationalism, and digital sociology.
Martin Aidnik is a sociology PhD student at the Institute of Social Sciences, Tallinn University, Estonia.
He holds a master´s degree in Social and Cultural Theory from the University of Bristol, England. His
main research interests are classical and contemporary social theory, critical pedagogy, utopian social
thought, and citizen´s income discussion. He has published articles on the truthout and
openDemocracy websites, as well as, together with Michael Hviid Jacobsen, in the book dedicated
to the social thought of Zygmunt Bauman –Beyond Bauman: Critical Engagements and Creative
Excursions (London and New York: Routledge, 2017). He has also recently published a paper on
Zygmunt Bauman´s and Ernst Bloch´s humanism in History of the Human Sciences (2017)
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