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Spectacle, Value, and Basic Income; Or, Labor and the “Maddening State”

By Kenneth McGill

Cite As:
McGill, Kenneth. 2022. “Spectacle, Value, and Basic Income; Or, Labor and the ‘Maddening State.’” Cultural Anthropology 37, no. 2: 225–250.


This article describes the protest efforts of a group of unemployed proponents of basic income in Germany. These efforts are theorized around the concepts of spectacle and abjection. Hungering bodies and corpses figure prominently. Ultimately, however, the spectacular character of these protests can be traced not just to the vulnerability of human bodies in a shared social space but also to the logic of value in a capitalist society. Where goods are quintessentially encoded as the result of labor, and especially where the social state systematically supports the organization of everyday life through the labor market, basic income can only emerge in the form of a spectacle that challenges popular conceptions of labor and economic value. 


Germany; basic income; value; labor; protest; spectacle; abjection