Professor Michael Jacobs

Department of Politics and International Relations

Professor of Political Economy

Professorial Fellow - SPERI

Managing Editor -

Professor Michael Jacobs
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Professor Michael Jacobs
Department of Politics and International Relations
Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS)
219 Portobello
S1 4DP

Michael Jacobs is an economist and political theorist, specialising in post-neoliberal political economy, climate change and environmental policy, and green and social democratic thought. He is professorial fellow at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

Prior to joining SPERI Michael was Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, based at the UK think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research. He was principal author and editor of the Commission’s final report Prosperity and Justice: A Plan for the New Economy (2018).

Originally a community worker and adult educator, Michael later became a director and then managing director of CAG Consultants, where he worked in local economic development and sustainable development. He was subsequently an ESRC research fellow at Lancaster University and the LSE. He was General Secretary of the think tank and political association the Fabian Society from 1997-2003.

From 2004–2007 Michael was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers at the UK Treasury, and from 2007–2010 he was a Special Adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with responsibility for energy, environment and climate policy.

After leaving government in 2010, Michael advised governments and others on international climate change policy in the run-up to the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015. He was a founder and senior adviser to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. 

Michael was Co-Editor of The Political Quarterly from 2012-14 and remains on its Editorial Board. 

In 2019 Michael co-founded the Economic Change Unit, a UK-based NGO which works with think tanks, academics, civil society organisations, trade unions, businesses and others to promote progressive economic thinking and policy. 

Michael is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the global think tank ODI, where he works on reform of international development and climate finance.   


Michael has a BA (Hons) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Employment and Planning from Middlesex Polytechnic (now University).

Research interests

Michael’s research centres on progressive post-neoliberal political economy. He is currently researching the concept of a ‘paradigm shift’ in economic thought, policy and discourse. This includes empirical work on current developments in economic theory, and theoretical work on the development of a non-neoclassical, institution-based synthesis. 

Michael also researches in the field of climate change and environmental policy and the political economy of a ‘green transition’. He is a scholar of social democratic and green political thought, and has written recently about the history of economic policy making in the Labour Party. 


  • 2018 Prosperity and Justice: A Plan for the New Economy (lead author), Polity / IPPR.
  • 2016 Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth (edited with Mariana Mazzucato), Wiley Blackwell.
  • 2000 Paying for Progress: A New Politics of Tax for Public Spending, Fabian Society.
  • 1997 Greening the Millennium? The New Politics of the Environment (ed), Blackwell.
  • 1996 The Politics of the Real World, Earthscan.
  • 1991 The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future, Pluto Press.


  • Carter, N. and Jacobs, M. (2014) ‘Explaining radical policy change: the case of climate change and energy policy under the British Labour Government 2006-10’, Public Administration, 92 (1), pp125–141.
  • Jacobs, M. (2012) ‘Green growth: economic theory and political discourse’. In R. Falkner (ed), Handbook of Global Climate and Environmental Policy, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp197-214.
  • Aldred, J. and Jacobs, M. (2000) ‘Citizens and wetlands: evaluating the Ely citizens’ jury’, Ecological Economics 34 (2) pp217-23.
  • Jacobs, M. (1999) ‘Sustainable development as a contested concept’. In A. Dobson (ed), Fairness and Futurity: Essays on Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp21-45.
  • Jacobs, M. (1997), ‘Sustainability and markets: on the neoclassical model of environmental economics’, New Political Economy 2 (3) pp365-385.
  • Jacobs, M. (1997) ‘Environmental valuation, deliberative democracy and public decision-making institutions’. In J. Foster (ed), Valuing Nature? Economics, Ethics, Environment. London: Routledge, pp211-231.
  • Jacobs, M (1995) ‘Sustainable development, capital substitution and economic humility: A response to Beckerman’. Environmental Values 4 (1) 1995, pp57-68.
  • Ekins, P. and Jacobs, M. (1994) ‘Environmental sustainability and the growth of GDP: conditions for compatibility’. In V. Bhaskar, and A. Glyn (eds), The North, the South and the Environment, London: Earthscan, pp9-46.
  • Jacobs, M. (1994) ‘The limits to neoclassicism: towards an institutional environmental economics’ In M. Redclift and T. Benton (eds), Social Theory and the Global Environment, London: Routledge, pp67-91.
Research group

Michael's research groups are SPERI and the Environment Research Group. 

Teaching interests

I am interested in the relationship between academic theory and politics as it occurs in the 'real world', having had experience of working in both contexts. In my teaching I try to help students understand both how to apply theory and how to question it. One of my roles in the Department and in SPERI is to support other researchers with their 'engagement and impact' activities, and I am also keen to help students think about careers in politics and policy. As an economist I am sceptical about much of mainstream economic theory but recognise its importance in policy making, and seek to help students understand both its role and limitations - and the alternatives available in heterodox and 'new' economic thinking.

Teaching activities

I currently lead the third year undergraduate module 'Practical Politics: How to make friends and influence people', which covers the theory and practice of policy making. I try to bring to this, both my academic knowledge, and my practical experience of being a policy maker in government and a policy advocate for a variety of think tanks and other civil society organisations. The course aims to introduce students to a wide variety of policy issues, and, through its invited guests, to practitioners in different types of policy-related organisations. I have also taught on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate modules on political theory and political economy.

I am glad to supervise both UG and PG dissertations and PhDs, particularly on policy making, progressive politics, and the political economy of environmental and climate change.

Professional activities and memberships

Michael is a co-founder of and Senior Adviser to the Economic Change Unit, and Managing Editor of the website He is a member of the Editorial Board of The Political Quarterly, and sits on the selection panel for the ESRC Policy Fellowships.