michael jacobs staff image 2018Professor Michael Jacobs

Professional Research Fellow

Email: m.jacobs@sheffield.ac.uk
Telephone: 0114 222 8366
Room: SPERI, ICOSS Building, 4th floor

Website: www.michaeljacobs.org


Michael Jacobs was appointed as professorial research fellow at SPERI (the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute) in 2018. An environmental economist by background, his research now focuses on wider paradigm shifts in economic thought and policy, and the philosophical bases of economics and political economy.

Michael’s early career was as a community worker and adult educator. He later worked as a consultant in local economic development and environmental management. During this time he published his first book, The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future (1991).

Michael subsequently took up an ESRC research fellowship in environmental economics and philosophy at the Study of Environmental Change at Lancaster University, and later in the Geography Department at the LSE. From 1997 to 2003 he headed the think tank the Fabian Society. He then became a member of the Council of Economic Advisers at the Treasury (2004-7) and a special adviser to the Prime Minister (2007-10) with responsibility for energy, environmental and climate change policy. From 2010-15 he worked as an adviser on international climate change strategy for the UN, national governments, NGOs and philanthropic foundations in the run up to the Paris climate conference. From 2012-14 he was co-editor of The Political Quarterly. From 2016-18 he was Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, and lead author of its final report Prosperity and Justice: A Plan for the New Economy (2018).

Other professional experience:

  • Michael is active in, and helps to coordinate, various organisations and networks interested in accelerating post-neoliberal economic systems change.
  • He is occasionally asked to provide commentary in the print and broadcast media on topical economic issues, on environment and climate change policy and negotiations, and on the role of special advisers in government.

This year (2018-19) I am guest lecturing on a range of courses in the politics and philosophy departments, on contemporary British politics, left and green political theory, UK political economy, policy agenda setting, and environmental and climate change economics and policy. As much of my career has been spent working in and around government I hope I can give students some insight into what the experience of politics and government is like as a participant, and into some of the theories and techniques of political strategy. With luck my stories of life in Gordon Brown’s government and in and around international climate change negotiations can help enliven the drier evidence and theory of these subjects!

PhD Supervision

I would be glad to supervise PhD students interested in the political economy of contemporary capitalism, economic philosophy, radical policy change and environmental economic policymaking.


My research focuses on the nature of political-economic paradigm shifts. This includes:

  • How paradigms should be defined and characterised, and how far this is a useful concept in economics and economic policymaking.
  • The philosophical structure of economics. What are the core conceptual features or philosophical foundations of a paradigm in economics? Across these features, what are the distinctive characteristics of alternative paradigms?
  • The practice of economics. What are economists currently philosophically doing, as evidenced by journal articles and the output of major institutions? In which philosophical paradigms or schools are articles being published, and in what proportions and in what trends?
  • A new synthesis. If the idea of a paradigm shift is meaningful, what would a new paradigm be? Can key insights and philosophical foundations from a number of economic schools and subject fields be successfully synthesised?
  • Structure, ideology and agency. How are ideas instantiated in the world and how do they influence economic outcomes through political discourse and the policy process. How does this affect our understanding of structure and agency and the role of the state and politics in contemporary capitalism?
Publications and Papers


Institute for Public Policy Research (2018) Prosperity and Justice: A Plan for the New Economy. The Final Report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice. London / Cambridge, IPPR / Polity [principal author]

Jacobs, M and Mazzucato, M (eds) (2016), Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016

Commission on Taxation and Citizenship (2000) Paying for Progress: A New Politics of Tax for Public Spending. London: Fabian Society, 2000 [author]

Jacobs, M (ed) (1997) Greening the Millennium? The New Politics of the Environment. Oxford: Blackwell.

The Real World Coalition (1996) The Politics of the Real World. London: Earthscan, 1996 [author]

Jacobs, M (1991) The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future. London: Pluto Press.

Refereed papers and book chapters

Laybourn-Langton, L and Jacobs, M (2018) 'Paradigm shifts in economic theory and policy', Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy Vol 53 No 3, pp113-118

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 Vol 92 No 1, pp125-141

Jacobs, M (2013), 'Green growth: economic theory and political discourse'. In R. Falkner (ed), Handbook of Global Climate and Environmental Policy, Wiley Blackwell.

Jacobs M (2013), 'Beyond the social market: rethinking capitalism and public policy’, Political Quarterly Vol 84 No 1, pp16-27

Aldred, J and Jacobs, M (2000) 'Citizens and Wetlands: Evaluating the Ely Citizens' Jury', Ecological Economics Vol 34 No ,2 pp217-232.

Jacobs, M (1999) ‘Environmental Democracy’. In A. Gamble and T. Wright (eds), The New Social Democracy. Oxford: Blackwell

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

Jacobs, M (1997) ‘The New Politics of the Environment’ and Jacobs M (1997) ‘The Quality of Life: Social Goods and the Politics of Consumption’. In M. Jacobs (ed), Greening the Millennium? The New Politics of the Environment. Oxford: Blackwell

Jacobs, M (1997) ‘Sustainability and Markets: On the Neoclassical Model of Environmental Economics’, New Political Economy Vol 2 No 3

Jacobs, M (1997) ‘Environmental Valuation, Deliberative Democracy and Public Decision-Making Institutions’. In J. Foster (ed), Valuing Nature? Economics, Ethics, Environment. London: Routledge

Macnaghten, P and Jacobs, M (1997) ‘Public Identification with Sustainable Development: Investigating Cultural Barriers to Participation’, Global Environmental Change Vol 7 No 1, pp5-24.

Jacobs, M (1995) ‘Sustainability and “The Market”: A Typology of Environmental Economics’ and Jacobs, M (1995), ‘Financial Incentives: The British Experience’. In R. Eckersley (ed), Markets, the State and the Environment: Towards Integration. London and Melbourne: Macmillan.

Ekins, P and Jacobs, M (1995). ‘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

Jacobs, M (1995) ‘Sustainable Development, Capital Substitution and Economic Humility: A Response to Beckerman’. Environmental Values Vol 4 No 1, pp57-68

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

Jacobs, M (1993) ‘"Free Market Environmentalism": A Response to Eckersley.’ Environmental Politics Vol 2 No 4, pp238-41

Jackson, T and Jacobs, M (1991) ‘Carbon Taxes and the Assumptions of Environmental Economics’. In T. Barker (ed), Green Futures for Economic Growth. Cambridge: Cambridge Econometrics

Recent reports

Laybourn-Langton, L and Jacobs, M (2017), Moving beyond Neoliberalism: An Assessment of the Economic Systems Change Movement in the UK, Friends Provident Foundation

Jacobs, M, Hatfield, I, King, L, Raikes L and Stirling, A (2017), Industrial Strategy: Steering Structural Change in the UK Economy, Institute for Public Policy Research

Institute for Public Policy Research (2017) Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy. The Interim Report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, IPPR [principal author]

Jacobs, M. Stirling, A and Colebrook, C (2016), Out of Shape: Taking the Pulse of the UK Economy,
Institute for Public Policy Research, 2016

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (2015), Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate, New Climate Economy [editor and co-lead author]

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (2014), Better Growth, Better Climate, New Climate Economy [co-lead author]


Lent,, Jacobs, M and Watkins, K (2003) Progressive Globalisation: Towards an International Social Democracy, Fabian Society

Jacobs, M (1999) Environmental Modernisation: The New Labour Agenda, Fabian Society

Jacobs, M (1994) Sustainability and Socialism, Socialist Environment and Resources Association

Jacobs, M (1990) Sustainable Development: Greening the Economy, Fabian Society