How societies generate, and distribute, wealth and resources while pursuing particular goals is at the heart of studies of political economy. Building on this tradition, this research cluster starts with the recognition that modern policy making often involves a need to reconcile multiple economic, environmental and societal goals and that understanding relevant trade-offs (who gains and who loses) is a central part of the task.
In practical terms, this means asking questions such as：
- What frameworks can be used to identify and assess the gains and losses from specific policies?
- How do, and should, distributional issues be reflected in policy assessments?
- What role should the state play in directing economic and social activity?
- How do we incentivise parties to solve common problems, particularly those that cross jurisdictional boundaries？
- How do rules, regulations and behavioural incentives influence behaviour?
- What is the risk tolerance of a society and how is this get reflected in policy?
- How can we encourage innovation but at the same time protect consumers and citizens from any potentially harmful effects?
- How do we assess and incorporate inter-temporal trade-offs, such as where the benefits/costs to current and future citizens differ？
Addressing these core political economy questions is particularly urgent at this time following the global pandemic and as many countries continue to grapple with increasing levels of poverty, inequality and social exclusion which, in some cases, is upending the established political order. At the global level there is also the pressing need to develop policy to deal with a changing climate, which if unaddressed could have enormous geo-political and socio-economic implications.
This project focuses on the trade-offs between resilience and affordability – how do we ensure our systems are resilient to environmental changes and facilitate a transition to a low carbon economy while ensuring that costs for key services (water, energy, transport) remain affordable. At the international level, we investigate whether the decision-making frameworks need to adapt to account for the fact that natural hazards (floods, drought etc.) disproportionally affect poorer communities and thus exacerbate inequality.
Inequality is an enduring issue. This project focuses on the weakness of traditional tax/spend policies in addressing inequality and how changing nature of work is exacerbating inequality. A current project is investigating the causes of the declining labour share in many developed economies, and asks the questions about what is driving this, and what could, or should, be done to address it.
Law and the political economy
This project interrogates the ways in which law constitutes a foundational element in the neoliberal order, in a number of ways. First, it questions the long-standing influence of economics on legal doctrine. Second, it highlights the manner in which law props up contemporary capitalism, through the creation of a hierarchy that ranks social welfare rights as subordinate to property and contract rights and to general efficiency and budgetary concerns. Third, it seeks to replace the analysis of the economy with the importance of the political economy, thus demanding one to be cognizant of matters of class, race and gender as factors that impact the economy and are impacted by it.
The future of work
This project offers a platform to assess work in the 21st century, against the background of dramatic demographic, technological and structural changes. In this context, we assess the impact of migration, an ageing population, and increased barriers for young workers to the modern economy. We study the way AI, monitoring and surveillance technologies have changed the workplace, particularly post-pandemic and the desire to work from home. And we analyse how the move to self-employment, freelancing and the ‘fissuring’ of the workplace have necessitated a reassessment of legal status and rights of workers.
Policy issues & consultancy
We aim to conduct research and provide consultancy in areas including:
- Resilient and sustainable development
- Relations between law and economy
- Future of work
- Affordable low-carbon economy
- New ideas of addressing inequalit
Modern Economic Regulation: An Introduction to Theory and Practice
Christopher Decker (second edition forthcoming, 2022, CUP)
Welfare to Work:
Conditional Rights in Social Policy