Published: January 24, 2019

The Life Course Centre is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Professor Erik Olin Wright of the University of Wisconsin on January 23, 2019. Professor Wright, 71, was a very important mentor and friend to the Life Course Centre and we join his family and friends in mourning the loss of such an esteemed colleague and iconic thinker. Recognised as one of the world’s most influential sociologists and a long-time advocate of Universal Basic Income, we were fortunate to have Professor Wright last visit the Life Course Centre in March 2018 when he outlined his vision of replacing means-tested, targeted welfare programs with a sufficiently liveable income given to all.

At this seminar at the University of Queensland, Professor Wright said implementing a generous unconditional basic income would eliminate cash poverty and solve a piece of the overall problem of marginalisation, particularly for children growing up in troubled families. He argued that basic income was at the heart of an anti-capitalist approach to ending poverty that would also give everybody the freedom of choice to say no to capitalist employment and engage in productive non-capitalist relations. Professor Wright’s inspiring comments to the seminar on how to achieve such radical and powerful change are worth repeating upon his passing: “Imagine the world which you would really like to live in and ask are there pieces of that world that can be built in the world as it is, bring the utopian imagination of the future into the present.”

Caption: Professors Greg Marston, Mark Western, Erik Olin Wright, and Janeen Baxter, at Professor Wright’s visit to the Life Course Centre in March 2018.