Unconditional welfare benefits and the principle of reciprocity

Shlomi Segall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Stuart White and others claim that providing welfare benefits to citizens who do not, and are not willing to, work breaches the principle of reciprocity. This, they argue, justifies placing a minimum work requirement on welfare recipients. This article seeks to rebut their claim. It begins by rejecting the attempt to ground the work requirement on a civic obligation to work. The article then explores the principle of reciprocity, and argues that the practice of reciprocity depends on the particular conception of distributive justice adopted. An examination of different interpretations of egalitarian justice and their corresponding patterns of reciprocity demonstrates that unconditional welfare benefits are compatible with, and sometimes even warranted by, the principle of reciprocity. Thus, imposing a work requirement on welfare recipients is by no means a mandate of reciprocity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)331-354
Number of pages24
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • contractualism
  • reciprocity
  • unconditional basic income
  • welfare state
  • work


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