Cutting-edge political economy research in a range of formats. Our book series provides in-depth scholarly insight. Our papers and reports share new data, analysis and findings. Our policy brief series translates academic research into accessible summaries and recommendations for change.


Featured publication: End of project summary of key findings

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon, Niall Cooper, Jane Perry and Simon Shaw | August 2022

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End of project summary of key findings

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon, Niall Cooper, Jane Perry and Simon Shaw | August 2022

Download (PDF, 932KB)

This report provides a high level summary of key findings from across the three work packages of he Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project as well as identifying some of the key learnings from the responses to support food access during the pandemic. The full reports from which this summary draws are available on the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project page.

Participatory methods in practice: Key learning

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Jane Perry, with Niall Cooper and Hannah Lambie Mumford | August 2022

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This report presents a case-study of participatory methods, documenting what was done as the project developed and sharing our main learning regarding the opportunities and challenges presented by this particular example of collaborative, participative research.

Food experiences during COVID-19 participatory panel deliberative policy engagement

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Summary prepared by Jane Perry supported by Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Niall Cooper and Barbora Adlerova | August 2022

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In Autumn 2021 the panel were joined by several ‘policy specialists’ in four ‘deliberative policy engagement’ workshops, providing an opportunity for the group to share their own perspectives and reflect on the implications for future policy and practice ‘post’ COVID-19. This report records the content, themes and ideas for the future which were discussed during these four sessions.

Mapping and monitoring responses to the risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK Autumn 2020 to summer 2021

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon, Alexandra Okell, Joe Hill and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | August 2022

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Following on from the previous two reports, which mapped and monitored responses across March to August 2020, this report tracks the key interventions targeted towards food insecurity as pandemic restrictions were variously in place over the autumn of 2020 through to spring/summer 2021. As before, the report focuses on four key interventions: school food replacements, emergency income, emergency food, and support for people shielding.

Local responses to household food insecurity across the UK during COVID-19 (September 2020 - September 2021)

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Katy Gordon, Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Simon Shaw and Rachel Loopstra | February 2022

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Building on the previous case studies, this report presents findings from a second phase of research exploring how local responses to food access issues during the COVID-19 pandemic evolved after August 2020. It looks at local level responses to risks of household food insecurity between September 2020 and September 2021, with a particular focus on the work of local councils, food aid providers, and community food initiatives as well as local collaboration and partnership working.

Drawing on data collected through a series of online workshops with third sector and council practitioners, the report provides an analysis of experiences of responding to food insecurity from 14 local areas from around the UK and makes recommendations for future policy and practice.

Local responses to household food insecurity across the UK during COVID-19 (September 2020 - September 2021) - Executive Summary

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Katy Gordon, Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Simon Shaw and Rachel Loopstra | February 2022

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The Executive Summary sets out the key findings, lessons and more immediate questions arising from a series of online workshops with practitioners, both council and third sector, which were undertaken to explore local responses to food insecurity between September 2020 - September 2021.


Navigating Storms

Edited by Gavin Aitchison and Jane Perry | October 2021

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The report is part of the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is mapping and monitoring responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Published in partnership with Church Action on Poverty the report draws on material generated by the project's participatory panel which shared their experience of accessing food during the pandemic for both themselves and for their communities. Navigating Storms reports on these experiences, insights and lessons.

Executive Summary in Burmese: The unequal impacts of Covid-19 on global garment supply chains

Evidence from Ethiopia, Honduras, India, and Myanmar

Genevieve LeBaron, Penelope Kyritsis, Perla Polanco Leal and Michael Marshall | July 2021

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The Executive Summary of this report has been translated into Burmese. The full report documents deteriorating living and working conditions for workers in garment supply chains, including a surge in vulnerability to forced labour, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Executive Summary in Tamil: The unequal impacts of Covid-19 on global garment supply chains

Evidence from Ethiopia, Honduras, India, and Myanmar

Genevieve LeBaron, Penelope Kyritsis, Perla Polanco Leal and Michael Marshall | July 2021

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The Executive Summary of this report has been translated into Tamil. The full report documents deteriorating living and working conditions for workers in garment supply chains, including a surge in vulnerability to forced labour, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Executive Summary in Amharic: The unequal impacts of Covid-19 on global garment supply chains

Evidence from Ethiopia, Honduras, India, and Myanmar

Genevieve LeBaron, Penelope Kyritsis, Perla Polanco Leal and Michael Marshall | July 2021

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The Executive Summary of this report has been translated into Amharic. The full report documents deteriorating living and working conditions for workers in garment supply chains, including a surge in vulnerability to forced labour, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Executive Summary in Spanish: The unequal impacts of Covid-19 on global garment supply chains

Evidence from Ethiopia, Honduras, India, and Myanmar

Genevieve LeBaron, Penelope Kyritsis, Perla Polanco Leal and Michael Marshall | July 2021

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The Executive Summary of this report has been translated into Spanish. The full report documents deteriorating living and working conditions for workers in garment supply chains, including a surge in vulnerability to forced labour, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March - August 2020): Full report

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra, Barbara Goldberg and Simon Shaw | July 2021

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This comprehensive report brings together each of the individual reports published in July 2021 presenting findings from case study research across the UK into local responses to food access issues between March-August 2020 (the first UK COVID-19 lockdown). The report is part of the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is mapping and monitoring responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comparing local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March – August 2020): Executive Summary

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Simon Shaw | July 2021

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This report is an Executive Summary of an accompanying comparative report that presents findings from a cross-case analysis of 14 local case studies which were undertaken to explore local responses to food access issues between March-August 2020 (the first UK COVID-19 lockdown). The report is part of the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is mapping and monitoring responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comparing local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March - August 2020)

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Simon Shaw | July 2021

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This comparative report presents findings from a cross-case analysis of 14 local case studies which were undertaken to explore local responses to food access issues between March-August 2020 (the first UK COVID-19 lockdown). The report is part of the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is mapping and monitoring responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local area case studies - Methodological appendix

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon, Barbara Goldberg, Simon Shaw and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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This methodological appendix sets out the research methods that were undertaken in the Autumn/Winter of 2020-21 for local area case studies which form part of the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is mapping and monitoring responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eight reports below present findings from local case study research. The area-based case studies report examining local-level interventions put in place in response to risks of rising household food insecurity during the pandemic between March-August 2020.

West Berkshire case study

Barbara Goldberg, Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Swansea case study

Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Cardiff case study

Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Belfast case study

Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Argyll and Bute case study

Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Herefordshire case study

Rachel Loopstra, Katy Gordon and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Moray case study

Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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Derry and Strabane case study

Katy Gordon, Rachel Loopstra and Hannah Lambie-Mumford | July 2021

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The unequal impacts of Covid-19 on global garment supply chains

Evidence from Ethiopia, Honduras, India, and Myanmar

Genevieve LeBaron, Penelope Kyritsis, Perla Polanco Leal and Michael Marshall | June 2021

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This report documents deteriorating living and working conditions for workers in garment supply chains, including a surge in vulnerability to forced labour, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.


Monitoring responses to risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK

Food vulnerability during COVID-19 phase 2: Monitoring responses to risks of household food insecurity

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Katy Gordon and Rachel Loopstra | December 2020

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Following our previous mapping of the range of national programmes and policies intended to enhance access to food for people at economic and physical risk of food insecurity in the UK between March and July 2020, this new report looks at how four of these national interventions worked in practice: replacement school food provision, emergency finance, emergency food provision and the grocery box scheme for people who were on the shielding list.

Committed to peace: The potential of former FARC-EP midlevel commanders as local leaders in the peace process

Anastasia Shesterinina | December 2020

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Download Spanish translation (PDF, 252KB)

Drawing on extensive field research conducted between 2018 and 2020, this research brief by Dr Anastasia Shesterinina challenges conventional understanding of peacebuilding in Colombia. It recasts our understanding of the potential role of former midlevel commanders of the FARC-EP, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army.

Midlevel commanders of armed groups are characterised as “spoilers'' of peace, but Dr Shesterinina’s research outlines how they can also play important roles in advancing peace.

Mapping responses to the risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK

Food vulnerability during COVID-19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Rachel Loopstra and Katy Gordon | August 2020

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This report is the first project report from the Food vulnerability during COVID-19 project which is led by SPERI Research Fellow Hannah Lambie-Mumford. The report sets out findings from a scoping of national policies and programmes that were made available during the crisis.

The mapping involved systematically searching and analysing publicly available information on responses to food insecurity during the crisis to date (March-July 2020). The report is a “living document”, providing the groundwork for the next stage of the project's research, which is looking at how these interventions worked in practice.

Wellbeing, resilience and sustainability

Jonathan Joseph and J. Allister McGregor | January 2020

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Wellbeing, resilience and sustainability are three of the most popular ideas in current usage and are said to represent a much-needed paradigm shift in political and policy thinking. This book is unique in bringing the three concepts together as representing a new trinity of governance. It introduces some of the commonalities between the ideas, particularly their concern with distinctive human capacities that shape who we are and that imply a particular relationship to our wider social and natural environments.

The book explains what is distinctive about the three ideas and why they are currently popular. In particular, it is concerned with how these ideas contribute to governance ‘after the crisis’, and how questions of social, political and economic uncertainty influence the ways in which these main arguments are developed.


Intergenerational fairness in post-crisis Europe: A comparative study

Kate Alexander Shaw | November 2019

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This paper, part of a comparative study by FEPS and SPERI, looks at the political discourses that has emerged across Europe over the last decade around the idea of “intergenerational fairness”. The paper brings together case studies from six European nations (the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain or Romania) showing that while discourses of intergenerational fairness are emerging across much of the continent, they vary in important respects according to the national context.

The paper also reports key findings from FEPS’ Millennial Dialogues Survey. Taken together, this new cross-country evidence illustrates the great complexity of the intergenerational agenda in Europe.

Exploring the paradoxes of inclusive growth: towards a developmental, multilateral and multidimensional approach

Colin Hay, Tom Hunt and J Allister McGregor | July 2019

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This paper argues for a shift from inclusive growth to inclusive development and proposes a conception that is both multidimensional and multilateral. This eschews the conceptions of inclusive growth that are founded on methodological nationalism and leads to an argument that sustainable inclusive development cannot be achieved through redistribution but requires predistribution. The paper argues that inclusive development can provide the frame and focus around which multilateralism can be re-founded, and it concludes with a call for the creation of a new multilateral compact on inclusive growth and development.

Corporate Commitments to Living Wages in the Garment Industry

Remi Edwards, Tom Hunt and Genevieve LeBaron | May 2019

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This report documents how global garment companies are failing to meet living wage promises to workers. Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the garment industry has faced growing pressure to raise wages and improve working conditions from consumers, civil society, unions and governments. Leading global corporations have made ambitious commitments to deliver living wages to the workers who make their clothes. The report by Remi Edwards, Tom Hunt and Genevieve LeBaron concludes that companies are falling short when it comes to meaningful action to implement these commitments and makes a series of detailed recommendations for how more meaningful progress can be made.

Understanding Contemporary Capitalism: A new research agenda for SPERI

SPERI | April 2019

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SPERI is committed to developing and promoting new analysis and understanding of contemporary capitalism and our research agenda is designed to address major economic and political challenges arising from contemporary capitalism. Understanding Contemporary Capitalism, collectively planned and written by members of the SPERI research team, outlines our approach to political economy analysis and explains how and why our intellectual agenda is now centred around four key research priorities which each address issues and concerns at the core of contemporary capitalism. Those four research priority areas, each explored in detail in the publication, are Capitalism, Democracy and the State; Finance, Debt and Society; Corporate Power and the Global Economy, and Labour and Decent Work.

British Capitalism After the Crisis

Scott Lavery | January 2019

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The 2008 financial crisis rocked British capitalism to its foundations. More than a decade after the crash, the country is still dealing with its consequences. This book explores the extent to which British capitalism has been reconfigured in this tumultuous period. Advancing an in-depth analysis of the political economy of New Labour, the Coalition and the period after Brexit, the book argues that deep structural weaknesses have been re-embedded within British capitalism. The Coalition promised to eliminate the deficit in one parliament and to ‘rebalance’ the British economy.

It did neither. Instead, real wages slumped, uneven development intensified and productivity stagnated. An era of volatile post-crisis politics - exemplified by Brexit, the May government and the rise of Corbyn - emerged in this context, threatening the foundations of the old order. This book is required reading for students and scholars interested in the fractious political economy of British capitalism after the crisis.

Diverging Capitalisms

Editors: Colin Hay and Daniel Bailey | January 2019

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This book analyses the changing nature of the British economy and the consequences of Brexit upon its place within the European economic space. The overhang from the global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis, the political negotiation of prolonged economic downturn and now the spectre of ‘Brexit’ provide the backdrop for various forms of capitalist restructuring designed to restore competitiveness and prosperity. This re-structuring has clear implications for existing European growth models, the structural imbalances and inequalities which characterise the British economy, the fortunes of the City of London and competing financial districts internationally, and the prospective strategies of progressive politics in this context.

Adopting a broadly critical political economy lens – which gives analytical weight to the relationship between economic and political dynamics – the book will draw on the research of eminent scholars to assess divergence in the foundations of economic competitiveness and their social repercussions.


Communicating Tax: exploring alternatives to the UK government’s Annual Tax Summary

Rebecca Bramall and Liam Stanley | September 2018

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This report presents the findings from a research project which examined the UK government’s Annual Tax Summary, a personalised tax and spending statement sent to income taxpayers. The project evaluated the Annual Tax Summary and explored alternative ways of reporting on and communicating about tax and public spending. The report offers recommendations for communicators who seek to champion the role of tax in society. More details about the project and its findings can be found here.

Universality, market justice, wasteful government: the legitimacy of tax cuts on higher incomes in the United States 1981-2001

SPERI Paper No.44

Inga Rademacher | June 2018

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This paper aims to explain the impact of legitimation practices on the acceptance of heightened inequality in the US tax system. Through content analysis the paper shows that the two largest tax cuts in American history, the Reagan tax cut in 1981 and the George W. Bush tax cut in 2001, only persisted when the Republican Party developed strong normative narratives of universality, market justice and wasteful government which pushed Democratic arguments in the cognitive realm. It argues that this normative imbalance is the source of growing acceptance of neoliberalism and that the power of normative arguments is greater than the power of economic theory in legitimating inequality.

Localising pension fund investments; Engaging with stakeholders, overcoming the barriers

Dr Craig Berry | June 2018

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‘Localising pension fund investments; Engaging with stakeholders, overcoming the barriers‘ by Dr Craig Berry explores the prospect of UK pension funds localising their investment strategies. The report is the culmination of a project, funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which explored the potential for local authority pension funds and private sector pension funds to contribute to localisation in pension investment practice. More details about the project and its findings can be found here.

The Global Business of Forced Labour: Report of Findings

Genevieve LeBaron | May 2018

This report presents the findings from the Global Business of Forced Labour project, a multidisciplinary international research project funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and led by Professor Genevieve LeBaron. The project is a first-of-its kind international research study investigating the business models of forced labour in global agricultural supply chains. Over two years the project systematically mapped the business of forced labour, focusing on case studies of the cocoa industry in Ghana and the tea industry in India. The report analyses the patterns of forced labour in cocoa and tea supply chains and the effectiveness of key business and government initiatives in combatting it and it offers recommendations to strengthen approaches to address and prevent forced labour in supply chains.

Global Business of Forced Labour: Policy Brief #3 Key Findings and recommendations for brands and retail companies

Genevieve LeBaron and Ellie Gore | May 2018

This policy brief presents key findings and recommendations for brands and retail companies from the ESRC-funded Global Business of Forced Labour project, led by Genevieve LeBaron.

Part One sets out the project’s main findings in relation to forced labour in cocoa and tea supply chains. Part Two outlines key challenges for industry in combating and preventing forced labour in their supply chains and Part Three offers recommendations for addressing those key challenges.

Global Business of Forced Labour: Policy Brief #2 Key Findings and recommendations for auditors and certifiers

Genevieve LeBaron and Ellie Gore | May 2018

This policy brief presents key findings and recommendations for auditors and certifiers from the ESRC-funded Global Business of Forced Labour project, led by Genevieve LeBaron.

Part One sets out the project’s main findings in relation to forced labour and ethical auditing and certification schemes in tea and cocoa. Part Two outlines four key challenges facing ethical auditing and certification schemes and offers some recommendations for addressing these.

Global Business of Forced Labour: Policy Brief #1 Key Findings and recommendations for UK policymakers

Genevieve LeBaron and Ellie Gore | May 2018

This policy brief presents key findings and recommendations for UK policymakers from the ESRC-funded Global Business of Forced Labour project, led by Genevieve LeBaron.

Part One sets out the key findings from the project. Part Two sets out recommendations for how UK policymakers could act to strengthen initiatives to address and prevent forced labour in supply chains.

The rationale for local authority pension fund investment decisions

British Political Economy Brief No.34

Craig Berry and Adam Barber | April 2018

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This Brief assesses the rationale behind the strategic asset allocation of the UK’s largest local authority pension funds since the 2007/2008 financial crisis. The analysis builds directly upon that of SPERI Brief 29, Local Authority Pension Fund Investment Since the Financial Crisis, which charted changes in the investment patterns of pension funds between 2005 and 2016. This Brief explores the basis of these changes, such as the move away from equity investment, and the partial move towards ‘alternative’ investments such as infrastructure.

Families and Food in Hard Times: rising food poverty and the importance of children’s experiences

British Political Economy Brief No.33

Rebecca O’Connell, Julia Brannen, Laura Hamilton, Abigail Knight, Charlie Owen and Antonia Simon | March 2018

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This Brief shares research from a mixed-methods study of food poverty and food practices of low-income families in the UK, drawing from interviews with 45 families with children aged 11 to 15 years old and secondary analyses of the UK’s Living Costs and Food survey over 2005 to 2013. It highlights that whilst school food can play a vital role in reducing, if not eliminating nutritional and social inequalities, Free School Meals in Secondary Schools can be insufficient to compensate for a lack of food at home and also shame children leading to social stigma and fragmentation.

Family hunger in times of austerity: families using food banks across Britain

British Political Economy Brief No.32

Rachel Loopstra, Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Ruth Patrick | March 2018

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This Brief analyses data from a survey of 598 households using Trussell Trust food banks across Britain. The authors examine how prevalent families with children are among households using food banks and identify characteristics that may make families with children vulnerable to food insecurity and the need to use food banks.

The rise and rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Global Political Economy Brief No.11

Rick Rowden | March 2018

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The Brief charts the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and assesses how Russia and China have come together to cooperate on common geostrategic and geoeconomic goals for the long-term economic integration of Asia. The Brief discusses the origins of the SCO, including its military and economic goals; the China-Russia relationship, which served as the fulcrum for the establishment of the SCO; the recent expansion of the SCO to include both India and Pakistan and considers the likelihood of Iran and Turkey joining in the future.

Children’s experiences of food and poverty: the rise and implications of charitable breakfast clubs and holiday hunger projects in the UK

British Political Economy Brief No.31

Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Lily Sims | March 2018

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This Brief draw attention to the rise of child feeding initiatives in light of rising food bank use among children and statistics on the number of children living in severely food insecure households in the UK. presents new findings from a scoping study of policy documents, academic literature, and websites of major child feeding providers. It highlights a shift in the positioning of Breakfast Clubs from a tool to promote education attainment and social inclusion to meeting the food needs of poor and hungry children. Evidence on the effectiveness of these programmes meeting their aims is patchy, limited and mixed.

Revisiting the developmental state

SPERI Paper No.43

Matthew L. Bishop, Anthony Payne, Kunal Sen, Shaun Breslin, Ziya Öniş, Valbona Muzaka, David Booth, Courtney Lindsay and Henry Wai-chung Yeung | February 2018

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This paper, edited by Matt Bishop and Tony Payne, brings together a number of eminent experts on the subject of the ‘developmental state’: Kunal Sen, Shaun Breslin, Ziya Öniş, Valbona Muzaka, David Booth, Courtney Lindsay and Henry Wai-chung Yeung.  The notion of a ‘developmental state’ is a key concept in the political economy of development. The simultaneous failure of neoliberal free market fundamentalism to deliver rising living standards in the West and the contrasting success of high levels of intervention in China, especially, have reignited interest in the concept. The authors each offer pithy, incisive accounts of key points of controversy and debate as they revisit and look afresh at the notion of a developmental state.

Crisis in the Eurozone Periphery

Editors: Owen Parker and Dimitris Tsarouhas | February 2018

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This book investigates the causes and consequences of crisis in four countries of the Eurozone periphery – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The contributions to this volume are provided from country-specific experts, and are organised into two themed subsections: the first analyses the economic dynamics at play in relation to each state, whilst the second considers their respective political situations. The work debates what made these states particularly susceptible to crisis, the response to the crisis and its resultant effects, as well as the manifestation of resistance to austerity. In doing so, Parker and Tsarouhas consider the implications of continued fragilities in the Eurozone both for these countries and for European integration more generally.

Baby Boomers versus Millennials: rhetorical conflicts and interest-construction in the new politics of intergenerational fairness

Kate Alexander Shaw | January 2018

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In this paper Kate Alexander Shaw analyses the current debate in the UK around intergenerational fairness. The paper argues that the intergenerational fairness debate has been almost entirely a post-crisis phenomenon in the UK, rising quickly up the agenda since 2010. The headline coherence of “intergenerational fairness” as a concept belies some important disagreements about its meaning and policy implications. Some strands of the debate are broadly progressive; others are more connected to the politics of fiscal conservatism.

Kate’s paper looks at how the concept cuts across right-left politics in the UK and considers how representations of intergenerational fairness can be either solidaristic or conflictual, and the choice between these two frames has important implications for policy. The debate around intergenerational fairness, accelerated by the recent upsurge in youth electoral turnout, also raises difficult questions about the relative priority that should be attached to age and class in Britain’s political economy.

Turning ‘intergenerational fairness’ into progressive policy

Kate Alexander Shaw | January 2018

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In this policy brief Kate Alexander Shaw sets out a series of recommendations for how the ‘intergenerational fairness’ can be turned into progressive policies. The brief’s central argument is that progressives need to develop an analysis that connects a structural understanding of the problem with a set of policies that target the underlying causes of generational inequality, not just its most recent symptoms. This means getting to grips with the possibilities for redistribution between age groups, and the ways in which intergenerational inequalities relate to other kinds of inequality.

Drawing on analysis of the emerging politics of intergenerational fairness in five European nations: the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark and Romania, this brief makes recommendations about how progressives should approach the politics of intergenerational fairness, before highlighting six policy areas in which they might look for progressive solutions. The six areas are 1) Employment rights and labour market protections 2) Taxation of asset wealth, including residential property 3) Improving private rented housing 4) Electoral reform 5) Pension reform and 6) Environmental policy.

SPERI-IPPR literature reviews

Sean McDaniel and Craig Berry | January 2018

SPERI and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have published a series of literature reviews, compiled to inform IPPR’s Commission for Economic Justice. The reviews have been authored by SPERI research assistant Sean McDaniel and deputy director Craig Berry. The three new literature reviews focus on:

Three further reviews – on work, labour markets and welfare, the company and alternative forms of ownership and digital platforms and competition policy – were published in November 2017 and can be found below. More information about the literature reviews and the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice can be found here.

Young workers’ perspectives on the economy, crisis, the labour market and politics

British Political Economy Brief No.30

Craig Berry and Sean McDaniel | January 2018

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This Brief presents new research on the perspectives of young people on the economy, crisis, the labour market and politics. Young people appear to be on the front line of structural change within the economy, evidenced by a stratification within the labour market between secure, high-skilled employment and precarious, low-skilled employment. Utilising focus group research the brief considers whether young people are content to work within ‘the new normal’, and whether they are willing to challenge prevailing economic circumstances in order to refashion the labour market.

Confronting Root Causes: Forced Labour in Global Supply Chains

Genevieve LeBaron, Neil Howard, Cameron Thibos and Penelope Kyritsis | January 2018

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‘Confronting Root Causes: Forced Labour in Global Supply Chains’, is a major new report that proposes new policy interventions to tackle previously unaddressed root causes of exploitative work conditions. The report is published by researchers from Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, an organisation that studies labour exploitation, in partnership with SPERI. Professor Genevieve LeBaron is the lead author of the report.


The role of competition and ideas in Britain’s abolition of capital controls, 1977-9

SPERI Paper No.42

Jack Copley | December 2017

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This paper seeks to challenge the conventional wisdom regarding the role of competition and ideas in capital control liberalisation through a close historical examination of Britain’s abolition of exchange controls. These controls were scrapped in four stages, involving both the Thatcher administration and its Labour predecessor over the years 1977-9. The paper argues that rather than this deregulatory policy being chiefly motivated by a desire to promote the City of London’s global prospects or by an ideological commitment to the free market, the explanation for this liberalisation must be sought in the stagflation crisis that confronted policy-makers during this time.

Frankfurt as a financial centre after Brexit

Global Political Economy Brief No.10

Scott Lavery and Davide Schmid | December 2017

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The Brief looks at how stakeholders based within Frankfurt’s financial sector have sought to position the city as an EU financial centre since the Brexit referendum. Following extensive interviews with elite stakeholders within Frankfurt’s financial sector, the Brief presents new findings that demonstrate how influential political and financial organisations in Frankfurt are working together to promote the city to financial service firms. It outlines how Frankfurt has not taken the more ‘aggressive’ approach pursued by other rival EU financial centres, such as Paris and Luxembourg.

Local authority pension fund investment since the financial crisis

British Political Economy Brief No.29

Craig Berry and Adam Barber | December 2017

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This Brief presents evidence and analysis on asset allocations by UK local authority pension funds. The Brief charts the changes in investment patterns by local authority pension funds since the 2007/08 financial crisis, and the extent of moves towards ‘alternative’ investments such as infrastructure. It demonstrates that since the financial crisis local authority pension funds have de-equitised to some extent, but not moved into bonds, and appear more willing to invest in alternative assets.

SPERI-IPPR literature reviews

Sean McDaniel and Craig Berry | November 2017

SPERI and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have published a series of literature reviews, compiled to inform IPPR’s Commission for Economic Justice. The reviews have been authored by SPERI research assistant Sean McDaniel and deputy director Craig Berry. The first three focus on:

Three further reviews – on macro-economic policy, economic metrics and local economies – will be published in early 2018. More information about the literature reviews and the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice can be found here.

The Final Report of the Industrial Strategy Commission

Industrial Strategy Commission | November 2017

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The Industrial Strategy Commission, a joint inquiry by SPERI and Policy@Manchester, was established to help to shape the development of a new, long-term industrial strategy for the UK. The Commission’s Final Report makes a series of recommendations and calls for industrial strategy to be rethought as a broad, long-term and non-partisan commitment to strategic management of the economy, and says the new industrial strategy must be an ambitious long-term plan with a positive vision for the UK. The Final Report and the Executive Summary are available to download here.

Developing England’s North

Editors: Craig Berry and Arianna Giovannini | November 2017

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This book explores the politics of local economic development in Northern England. Socio-economic conditions in the North – and its future prospects – have become central to national debates in the UK. The status of Northern regions and their local economies is intimately associated with efforts to ‘rebalance’ the economy away from the South East, London and the finance sector in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The contributors to this volume focus in particular on the coalition and Conservative governments’ ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda. They also analyse associated efforts to devolve power to local authorities across England, which promise to bring both greater prosperity and autonomy to the deindustrialized North. Several chapters critically interrogate these initiatives, and their ambitions, by placing them within their wider historical, geographical, institutional and ideological contexts. As such, Berry and Giovannini seek to locate Northern England within a broader understanding of the political dimension of economic development, and outline a series of ideas for enhancing the North’s prospects.

Food, Health and the Knowledge Economy

Valbona Muzaka | October 2017

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This book opens a window into how two ambitious countries – India and Brazil – are seeking to become knowledge powers in the 21st century. As the knowledge economy became the preferred way of conceptualising the economy and its future direction, in the more economically-advanced countries, our search for understanding also followed the same direction. This generated a body of work that has neglected countries that, like India and Brazil, are attempting to make the leap into knowledge economies. Muzaka explores these motivations and the ways in which they have inspired a number of institutional reforms in India and Brazil. The author offers an investigation of the role the state in shaping the respective intellectual property systems pertaining to the pharmaceutical and agro-biotechnology sectors and the multiple social conflicts that have unfolded as a result.

The Coming Crisis

Editors: Colin Hay and Tom Hunt | October 2017

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This book provides a timely warning of the dangers still present and building in the global economic system, whose frailty was exposed by the global financial crisis, and the Eurozone crisis it spawned. The contributors to this volume draw on SPERI’s work on the political economy of growth, stagnation, austerity and crisis, and placing each in the context of the wider environmental crisis.

The Politics of Economic Liberalisation

Bruno Wueest | October 2017

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This book analyses the discourses of economic liberalization reform in six Western European countries – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. It provides systematic empirical evidence that policy-related discourses are much more than noise; rather, they are detailed expressions of institutional complementarities and political struggles.

The author posits that the more open a discourse, the broader the range of perceived interests, which, in turn, increases the intensity of conflicts. Similarly, the more public discourse centres on coordination, the more intense actors need to engage with opposite interests, which most probably intensifies political disputes as well. Moreover, Wueest argues that the formation of a consensus within the political mainstream has left a vacuum for outsider parties such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain to feed on the contentiousness of economic liberalization policies.

SPERI report for GMB: Tackling Insecure Work: political actions from around the world

Tom Hunt and Sean McDaniel | September 2017

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‘Tackling Insecure Work: political actions from around the world’, a SPERI report for the GMB trade union sets out a range of examples of how and where political action is being taken around the world to tackle different forms of insecure work. The report by Tom Hunt and Sean McDaniel highlights new legislation, campaigns and partnerships that seek to protect and enhance workers’ rights and to restrict and challenge insecure forms of work. The report focuses on ten areas including zero and short hour contracts, temporary agency work, protections for self-employed freelance workers and improving pay and conditions on online platforms. It looks at actions being taken by national government and at city and regional level, in traditional sectors and in the gig economy, and to support freelance self-employed workers as well as part-time and full-time workers.

The declining salience of ‘saving’ in British politics

British Political Economy Brief No.28

Craig Berry | August 2017

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This Brief considers how the salience of ‘saving’ in British political discourse has evolved in recent years. It does so by examining how savers and the saving process have been discussed in the election manifestos of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party since 2005, up to the most recent election in June 2017. Noting recent shifts, the Brief considers whether the era of ‘asset-based welfare’ in British statecraft is coming to an end.

Professional Authority After the Global Financial Crisis

Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn | August 2017

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This book challenges amoral views of finance as the leading realm in which mammon – wealth and profit – is pursued with little overt regard for morality. The author details an enhanced ethical emphasis by leading Anglo–American professionals in the aftermath of the 2007–8 global financial crisis. Instead of merely stressing expert knowledge, professionals sought to overcome the alleged impossibility of serving “two masters” – mammon and God – by embracing religious finance, socio-economic inequality, sustainability and other overtly moral issues.

Continuities in liberal values and ideas, however, limited the impact of this enhanced ethical emphasis to restoring the professional authority, as well as to more fundamentally reforming of Anglo–American finance following the most severe period of instability since the Great Depression. Providing a nuanced account of post-crisis change and continuity in a crucially important industry, Campbell-Verduyn advances a dynamic, process-based understanding of authority that will appeal to international political economists and sociologists alike.

Laying the Foundations – the first major report by the Industrial Strategy Commission

| July 2017

Laying the Foundations sets out the emerging findings of the Commission and outlines the key foundations for a successful long-term industrial strategy. It argues that across the private and public sector and the political spectrum there is strong support for a new ambitious strategy. The government must grasp the opportunity this consensus presents.

With uncertainty about the UK’s economics prospects increasing, the report also outlines the serious and longstanding weaknesses and challenges affecting the UK economy – and the significant opportunities. It argues that a new strategy will enable public and private sector to work together to invest in the UK’s people, places and industries and achieve greater future prosperity. The report warns that a new strategy will only be a success if it is embedded throughout the public sector and secures buy-in from the private sector, if it has sound foundations and offers a positive vision for the future.

The Political Economy of Britain in Crisis

Christopher Kirkland | July 2017

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This book explores two recent crises in British political economy: the crisis of 1976–9, for which the trade unions were impugned, and the 2007 economic crisis, for which bankers were (at least initially) blamed. The author argues that the “crisis resolution” of the former – principally the Thatcherite reforms of the 1980s – led to the emergence of the banking crisis. Further, Kirkland demonstrates how narratives of blame have emerged and were used in both instances to promote specific agendas. Narrations of blame and crises were used to curb the trade union powers in the 1980s, whilst the 2007 crisis was quickly reframed as one of excessive government spending, which in turn has led to policies of austerity.

Oil: The Missing Story of the West’s Economic and Geopolitical Crises

Global Political Economy Brief No.9

Helen Thompson | June 2017

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This Brief argues that oil still shapes the present economic and political world. All but one of the recessions in the US since the Second World war were preceded by a sharp rise in the price of oil. Without understanding the story and the impact of oil, we cannot understand the present economic and geopolitical landscape.

The Political Economy of Brexit and the UK’s National Business Model

SPERI Paper No.41

Scott Lavery, Lucia Quaglia and Charlie Dannreuther | May 2017

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The paper draws contributions from the organisers of a workshop series on Brexit funded by the White Rose Consortium, Scott Lavery (SPERI, Sheffield), Lucia Quaglia (York) and Charlie Dannreuther (Leeds) as well as contributions from Gabriel Siles-Brugge (Warwick), Nicole Lindstrom (York), Ben Rosamond (Copenhagen), Scott James (KCL) and Jonathan Perraton (Sheffield). Written in the period between the June 2016 vote and the March 2017 Article 50 ‘trigger’, the paper offers an overview of the political economy of Brexit across a number of policy areas, including finance, trade, investment, the labour market, regional development and EU integration.

Paying a ‘Fair Share’: Multinational Corporations’ Perspectives on Taxation

Global Political Economy Brief No.8

John Mikler and Ainsley Elbra | May 2017

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In this Brief Mikler and Elbra address the issue of global corporate tax avoidance and consider how multinational corporations (MNCs) can be made to pay their fair share of tax. They focus in particular on the strategies to avoid taxation deployed by Apple and Google and consider in depth the public enquiries undertaken in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom into the methods of avoidance adopted.

The long-term impact of the state pension ‘triple lock’

British Political Economy Brief No.27

Craig Berry | May 2017

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This Brief explores the merit of the criticism the triple lock attracts by considering the policy’s long-term impact on state pension outcomes; in short, the triple lock is assessed as a pensions policy, not simply a pensioner policy. The analysis places the triple lock within the context of the wider operation of the UK state pension system for different age groups, after comparing the UK state pension system with those of other developed countries. The analysis finds that concerns about the state pension triple lock being too expensive, or unfair on younger generations, are misplaced. The Brief argues that the triple lock helps to nudge the value of the state pension towards the OECD average – albeit arguably far too slowly – and considers, finally, other policy options that might mean that the same goal can be achieved in a more fiscally sustainable manner.

Oil and the Western Economic Crisis

Helen Thompson | May 2017

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This book explains the place of oil in the economic and political predicaments that now confront the West. Thompson explains the problems that the rising cost of oil posed in the years leading up to the 2008 crash, and the difficulties that a volatile oil market now poses to economic recovery under the conditions of high debt, low growth and quantitative easing. The author argues that the 'Gordian knot' created by the economic and political dynamics of supply and demand oil in the present international economy poses a fundamental challenge to the assumption of economic progress embedded in Western democratic expectations.

EU Business Views on Brexit: Politics, Trade and Article 50

Global Political Economy Brief No.7

Scott Lavery, Adam Barber, Sean McDaniel and Davide Schmid | April 2017

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This brief analyses the positions of key employer organisations within Germany, France and Ireland in relation to Brexit and their trading relationship with the UK.

Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin: Post-Brexit Rivals to the City of London?

Global Political Economy Brief No.6

Scott Lavery, Adam Barber, Sean McDaniel and Davide Schmid | April 2017

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This Brief assesses the strategic positioning of alternative financial centres in the aftermath of Brexit. It shows how three major rivals to the City are organising to attract ‘low hanging fruit’ from London.

Tax spillover: a new framework

Andrew Baker | March 2017

In this new APPG-SPERI report Andrew Baker (Professorial Fellow at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute) and Richard Murphy (Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University) set out a new framework for calculating the economic damage of a global race to the bottom on tax.

The report responds to growing concerns from major NGOs like Oxfam, international organisations and governments about ‘tax spillover’ effects – or how one country’s tax policy impacts another country’s tax base, tax policy and economic activity. This report sets out a new way to analyse these effects.

Tax is about much than revenue raising. It is an instrument in broader economic and social policy and so is at the heart of the inclusive growth debate.

‘Brexit Britain’: Where does the UK growth model go from here?


Andrew Gamble and Scott Lavery | March 2017

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In this Brief Andrew Gamble and Scott Lavery, both of SPERI, offer a brief historical overview of the development of the UK growth model and the strategic orientation of British business groups. They outline how Brexit has problematised conventional economic and business strategies and the potential development trajectories for the British economy now that Article 50 has been triggered.The findings presented in this Brief take the analysis developed as part of the workshop entitled ‘After Brexit: British and EU capitalisms at the crossroads?’ held in Brussels on March 24th 2017.

Political Economy and the Paradoxes of Macroprudential Regulation

SPERI Paper No. 40

Andrew Baker | March 2017

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This Paper takes a close look at macroprudential regulation by engaging with its constituent concepts and how they interrelate to one another. The author argues that the emerging political economy of macroprudential regulation revolves around five paradoxes. The first three of these are paradoxes that characterise the financial system and are identified by the macroprudential perspective. In seeking to respond to these paradoxes, macroprudential policy generates a further two distinctly institutional and political paradoxes. The last of these is a central bankers’ paradox which relates to the source of independent central bank authority and the difficulty of building legitimacy and public support for macroprudential regulation.

The State of the Debate

Rt Hon. Liam Byrne MP, Michael Jacobs, Rick Samans and Gabriela Ramos | February 2017

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In a democracy, anger isn’t abstract. As both the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump show, it turns up on polling day, with potentially disastrous results for the health of the world’s marketplace.

This ground-breaking series of essays begins to set out the foundations for a new consensus in political economy. And not before time.

British Business Strategy, EU Social and Employment Policy and the Emerging Politics of Brexit

SPERI Paper No. 39

Scott Lavery | February 2017

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This Paper highlights Brexit might change how British businesses engage with EU institutions in order to further their objectives. Through a document analysis of business responses to the Balance of Competences Review on EU Social and Employment Policy and CBI policy documents between 2010-2016, the author Scott Lavery outlines how British business has attempted to ‘defend and extend’ a liberalising agenda in the EU throughout the pre-referendum period. It is argued that Brexit fundamentally undermines this strategic orientation. The Paper concludes with some of the key strategic dilemmas which the ‘leave’ vote generates for British capital within the emerging politics of Brexit.

European Union Financial Regulation, Banking Union, Capital Markets Union and the UK

SPERI Paper No. 38

Lucia Quaglia | January 2017

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As part of the project on Diverging Capitalisms with FEPS and Policy Network, we are pleased to publish a new paper by Professor Lucia Quaglia which analyses the EU reforms in three key financial policy areas – financial regulation, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union – and the role played by the preferences and influence of the United Kingdom (UK) within them. She argues that the UK has played a variety of roles – ‘foot-dragger’, ‘fence-sitter’ and ‘pace-setter’ – in the policy areas under discussion. The (at times considerable) British influence was geared towards the attainment of preferences that were shaped by domestic politics and political economy, primarily the interests of the financial services industry and the City of London.

Rethinking the fiscal and monetary political economy of the Green State

SPERI Paper No. 37

Dan Bailey | January 2017

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This Paper investigates an under-theorised contradiction in the political economy of the Green State; a Robyn Eckersley concept which fosters a debate on how state capacity and legitimacy can be pragmatically utilised in order to realise environmental protection. The contradiction identified centres upon the operationalisation of an interventionist state, the move beyond economic growth, and the deference afforded to the ceteris paribus conventions of state financing.

The author argues that the three cannot co-exist harmoniously, given the ramifications of moving beyond growth for the fiscal capacity of the state. Therefore, there is a need to go further than even Eckersley does in re-politicising and challenging capitalist conventions. Specifically, Eckersley’s own critical constructivist approach is invoked to interrogate the capitalist conventions that constitute the constraints surrounding state financing, such as the de-politicised production of money and the viability of debt relations.


What Brexit and austerity tell us about economics, policy and the media

SPERI Paper No. 36

Simon Wren-Lewis | December 2016

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This new Paper is the transcript of Simon Wren-Lewis’s Prize-winning Lecture: What Brexit and austerity tell us about economics, policy and the media.
In this Paper, Simon Wren-Lewis tackles the inconsistencies and inaccuracies reported in the media about austerity and Brexit. He calls for journalists to bring in academic expertise and to prick the Westminster bubble.

EU economic governance after Brexit: Governing a disintegrating Europe


Lucia Quaglia and Waltraud Schelkle | November 2016

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In this Brief Lucia Quaglia, University of York, and Waltraud Schelkle, London School of Economics, provide new insights on how fragmented political and economic interests, both internationally and intra-nationally, have been shaping EU economic policy-making in the wake of the global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis and the UK’s referendum on EU membership. The findings presented in this Brief take the analysis developed as part of the workshop entitled ‘Diverging Capitalisms, Part 2: Brexit and new EU economic governance’ held in London in October 2016.

‘Treasury Control’ and the British Environmental State

SPERI Paper No. 34

Martin Craig | November 2016

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This Paper explores the negative impacts of H.M. Treasury powers and policy priorities on the development of the British ‘environmental state’. A growing literature uses the term ‘environmental state’ to refer to the new roles and institutional capacities that the modern capitalist state has acquired in relation to the environment and the unfolding ecological crisis. The paper considers the implications of the Treasury for the British environmental state’s ability to have a transformative impact.

The Paper argues that recent incursions by the Treasury into environmental, energy and industrial policy can be seen as part of a broader strategy to repair the pre-2008 accumulation model, reflecting a historical tendency on the part of the Treasury to stress minimally adaptive accumulation model repair over transformation. In the process, the institutional capacities through which the British environmental state might be used to pursue a ‘green industrial strategy’ and bring about an ecological transformation of that accumulation model are being sacrificed.

Negotiating Flexibility at UNGASS 2016: Solving the ‘World Drug Problem’?

Global Political Economy Brief No.5

Matt Bishop | November 2016

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This Brief summarises and analyses key aspects of the political economy of the so called ‘War on Drugs’. Prohibition, led by the US, has been the favoured policy to counter drugs since the 1960s, but in recent years a number of significant shifts have taken place and stimulated calls for reform. In April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly held a Special Session (UNGASS) on the ‘World Drug Problem’. UNGASS 2016 did not secure the radical reforms that many wished to see.

Six months on from the special session, this SPERI Global Political Economy Brief assesses the consequences of UNGASS 2016: it explores why the special session was called; assesses what actually happened at UNGASS, both before and after; and analyses the implications for a creaking global drug regime.

Scotland and the North of England: Sub-national economic development and the UK’s finance-led growth model

British Political Economy Brief No.26

Scott Lavery | November 2016

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This Brief focuses on two major sectors – finance and manufacturing – and shows that despite enjoying distinct ‘devolved’ policymaking competences, Scotland’s economic trajectory since devolution has closely mirrored that of the North of England. In terms of manufacturing output and employment, both Scotland and the North of England have experienced similar patterns of decline since 1999. In financial services, both Scotland and the North of England have failed to maintain their share of financial services markets relative to the UK average and in relation to London in particular. Despite differences in regional economic governance institutions, Scotland and the North of England share important structural features and therefore similar economic challenges in the years ahead.

Ecological Political Economy and the Socio-Ecological Crisis

Martin P A Craig | November 2016

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Critically synthesising a range of disparate literatures and debates, this book asks what is at stake in mounting a decisive response to the ‘socio-ecological crisis’ - a crisis of humanity’s relationship with the rest of nature that places social life as we know it in jeopardy. Martin Craig proposes that political economists within and beyond the field of political ecology make an indispensable contribution to the diagnosis of this crisis and the formulation of prescriptions for its resolution.

In a wide-ranging yet concise exposition, he assess the fraught relationship between capitalist societies and the biosphere of which they are a part, and urges a renewed emphasis on political-economic structure and strategy when considering responses to the crisis. The result is a proposal for a critical yet inclusive research enterprise – 'ecological political economy' – within which a wide variety of researchers can readily participate.

Critical Transformations: Rethinking Zambian Development

SPERI Paper No. 33

Nicholas Jepson and Jeffrey Henderson | October 2016

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This Paper seeks to retheorise the trajectory of Zambian development since the country’s independence. It emerges from a larger project designed to break with current discourses and rethink development more generally on the basis of ‘transformation’, with particular attention paid to the circumstances under which periods of ‘critical transformation’ are likely to occur in particular national and subnational contexts.

Beginning with an account of the conceptual and epistemological issues associated with this approach, the paper then explores the utility of ‘transformation analysis’ categories via a re-interpretation of Zambian development. It maps in detail the ways in which key enduring vectors of transformation have combined over time, along with a variety of other intervening dynamics and contingencies, to drive the sequences and trajectories of transformation observed in Zambia since independence.

UK manufacturing decline since the crisis in historical perspective

British Political Economy No.25

Craig Berry | October 2016

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While the decline of manufacturing appears superficially to have halted, this new analysis suggests the sector’s decline has in fact entered a new, dangerous phase. The report explores the challenge facing Theresa May, who has made industrial policy one of the key pillars of her economic agenda, and casts doubt on the recent positive commentary surrounding manufacturing in the context of the current post-Brexit collapse in the value of sterling.

Riding the Tiger: Towards a New Growth Strategy for the Anglo-American Left

SPERI Paper No. 32

David Coates | September 2016

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Designing an alternative growth model seems to occupy the mind of politicians and academics alike in Britain and America. But what are we trying to grow? And why are existing progressive packages not sufficient? This Paper tackles both those questions simultaneously and seeks to establish three main propositions as it does so.

(1) We are at a watershed moment in both US and UK politics and economy, a moment that both marks the end of a particular growth period and opens the transition to another. (2) This is the second such watershed moment in post-war US and UK history, and a proper understanding of the growth periods divided by them is key to grasping the trajectory of progressive politics that we now inherit. (3) The legacy of the failed Reagan/Thatcher growth model is currently so huge and so daunting that only the formulation of an entirely new growth strategy will help resolve that legacy in a progressive direction.

Exploding Europe: Germany, the Refugees and the British Vote to Leave

SPERI Paper No. 31

Wolfgang Streeck | September 2016

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In this Paper Wolfgang Streeck argues that Angela Merkel’s decision to open up Germany’s borders during Europe’s ‘refugee crisis’ of late summer 2015 was ‘without doubt a major force’ behind Brexit. Merkel’s response to the 2015 refugee crisis, Streeck states, was driven in part by a need to attract new workers to the German labour market to address their ageing population, but also to deflect attention away from Germany’s treatment of Greece and to claim the moral high ground by presenting a favourable contrast to the treatment of refugees at the ‘Jungle’ camp in France.

Property Taxation and Economic Development: Lessons from Rwanda and Ethiopia

Global Political Economy No.4

Tom Goodfellow | September 2016

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The new Brief charts the rapid urbanisation that has taken place in recent decades in Rwanda and Ethiopia, two of the world’s poorest, but most rapidly urbanising, countries, and the attempts in both countries to introduce effective property taxation reforms. It explores the range of factors in both countries that have led to the taxation reforms achieving poor results to date.

The Political Economy of India’s Growth Episodes

Sabyasachi Kar and Kunal Sen | September 2016

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This book moves beyond the usual economic analysis of the Indian growth story and provides a fresh perspective on the determinants of growth episodes in post-independence India, based on its political economy. Using a robust and novel technique, the authors identify four such episodes during this period. The first, running from the 1950s to 1992, was mostly characterized by economic stagnation, with a nascent recovery in the eighties. The second, covering the period 1993 to 2001, witnessed the first growth acceleration in the economy. A second acceleration ran from 2002 to 2010. The fourth and final episode started with the slowdown in 2010 and continues to this day. The book provides a theoretical framework that focuses on rent-structures, institutions and the polity, and demonstrates how changes in these can explain the four growth episodes. Kar and Sen argue that the transitions from one growth episode to another can be explained by the bi-directional relationship between growth outcomes and institutional arrangements, and by the manner in which institutional arrangements and their transitions are determined by the political bargains struck between the elite groups in Indian society.

The impact of Brexit on the City and the British economic model


Helen Thompson and Leila Simona Talani | July 2016

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In this Brief Helen Thompson and Leila Simona Talani consider the impact of Brexit on the City, focusing on two key aspects of the debate: the tensions between the City and democratic politics, and the challenges for the future of the City posed by the vote on 23 June for Britain to leave the European Union (EU). The analysis presents findings from the first workshop in the series entitled, ‘Diverging Capitalisms, Part 1: The City after the Crisis’ which was held in London in April 2016.

Rethinking The Political Economy of Development Beyond ‘The Rise of the BRICS’

SPERI Paper No. 30

Matthew Bishop | July 2016

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This Paper revisits the ‘rise of the BRICS’ by challenging the notion itself, which according to the author Matthew Bishop, is a hollow phrase and only describes shifts in the contemporary global political economy. Using this critique as a point of departure, this paper interrogates prevailing ways of thinking about the political economy of development in a rapidly changing global order. ‘The Rise of the BRICS’ is rejected as a useful conceptual device, but is considered nonetheless to embody a number of hidden implications that, once identified, represent important avenues for rethinking development today.

Workshop Report: Sustainable Societies: Designing Sustainable Economies: Translating ideas and research into policy and practice

Neil McInroy, Craig Berry, Tom Hunt, Amy-Grace Whillans-Welldrake and Matthew Todd | July 2016

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This is the report of a workshop organised by Hayley Stevenson, as part of her ESRC Future Research Leaders award which brought together people with very different perspectives on the challenge of sustainability. There is no single vision for a sustainable economy; debates feature many overlapping and competing concepts like sustainable development, green economy, green growth, harmony with nature, degrowth, steady state economy, circular economy, etc. The aim of the workshop was to take people out of their ‘informational cocoons’ to generate rich and challenging discussions, and to advance our collective understanding of challenges we face.

Dodd-Frank: From Economic Crisis to Regulatory Reform

SPERI Paper No.29

Basak Kus | June 2016

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This Paper looks at how the US system of financial regulation has come under increased criticism in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. As the crisis deepened, regulatory reform became a political necessity but no consensus existed on what direction reform should take. In 2010, after a long political battle, the US Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act. This paper examines how the bill took the form it did, and in particular, how the creation of a federal agency dedicated to consumer financial protection – one of the most, if not the most, controversial of reform ideas floating around – became one of its main elements.

UK regions and European structural and investment funds

British Political Economy Brief No.24

Craig Berry, Tom Hunt, Scott Lavery and Will Vittery | May 2016

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This brief analyses EU structural funds, which support regional economic development in EU member states, and shows how they are unevenly distributed across the UK’s regions. The UK’s poorest regions, particularly the North of England, Wales and the South West, tend to receive a higher level of funding than more prosperous regions in the south and east of England.

UK regions, the European Union and manufacturing exports

British Political Economy Brief No.23

Craig Berry, Chris Kirkland, Scott Lavery and Tom Hunt | May 2016

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Austerity Politics and UK Economic Policy

Craig Berry | May 2016

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This book assesses UK economic policy in the wake of the financial crisis through the lens of the austerity agenda, focusing on monetary policy, economic rebalancing, industrial and regional policy, the labour market, welfare reform and budgetary management. Berry argues that austerity is geared towards a resurrection of financialisation and the UK’s pre-crisis economic model, through the transformation of individual behaviour and demonisation of the state. Cutting public spending and debt in the short term is, at most, a secondary concern for the UK policy elite. However, the underlying purpose of austerity is frequently misunderstood due to its conflation with a narrow deficit reduction agenda, not least by its Keynesian critics. Berry also demonstrates how austerity has effectively dismantled the prospect of a centre-left alternative to neoliberalism.

Innovation, research, and the UK’s productivity crisis

SPERI Paper No. 28

Richard Jones | April 2016

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Professor Richard Jones shows that the UK’s slowdown in productivity is unprecedented and argues that, if this trend continues, UK living standards will continue to stagnate and the government’s ambition to eliminate the deficit will fail. The paper explores the connection between the UK’s poor productivity performance and the low R&D intensity of its economy in several industrial sectors, and tests some explanations of the productivity slowdown.

Welfare recipients, public opinion and ‘deservingness’

British Political Economy Brief No.22

Liam Stanley and Todd K Hartman | April 2016

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This Brief analyses the results of a survey which explored who the public thinks should be considered as a ‘welfare recipient’, and which types of state support are understood as ‘welfare’. The results highlight a link between the perceived ‘deservingness’ of a group and the extent to which they are considered welfare recipients. The results demonstrate that although many different groups of people receive state-funded help, members of the public instead focus on certain groups in society: the less stereotypically ‘deserving’ a group is considered, the more likely they are to be deemed as welfare recipients.

The authors suggest that a shift has taken place in the meaning of welfare: whereas welfare used to have positive connotations (think of the rise of the NHS, the post-war period, and so on) it is increasingly seen in a negative light as a way of supporting those who do not deserve to be helped. The political implications of this shift can be seen in both rhetoric and policy-making related to welfare.

Reforming the Treasury, reorienting British capitalism

British Political Economy Brief No.21

Craig Berry, Andrew Gamble, Colin Hay, Tom Hunt and Tony Payne | March 2016

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This Brief by Craig Berry, Andrew Gamble, Colin Hay, Tom Hunt and Tony Payne, contributes to perennial debates about the role and responsibilities of the Treasury, and its dual role within Government as both the ‘economics ministry’ and the ‘finance ministry’, which have been given fresh impetus by the review of the Treasury currently being conducted by Lord Kerslake. The authors looked at previous attempts to challenge the Treasury’s pre-eminence within government over economic policy, and suggest that the Treasury should be accepted as the dominant economics ministry with political capital and effort spent instead on reforming its role, responsibilities and mandate.

Where now for flexicurity?

Global Political Economy Brief No.3

Jason Heyes and Thomas Hastings | March 2016

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This Global Brief explores the state of flexicurity in the EU. Flexicurity is based on the idea that modern labour markets should be flexible but should also offer strong support and security for workers. Research by Jason Heyes and Thomas Hastings shows that across the EU there has been a significant shift towards weaker job security and employment support since the global financial crisis. The findings raise serious questions about the viability of the EU’s ‘flexicurity’ agenda which underpins the European Commission’s social policy and labour market programmes.

The UK banking sector and the corporation tax surcharge

British Political Economy Brief No.20

Adam Barber and Tom Hunt | March 2016

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This Brief considers the impact of the changes to taxes on banks made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget in July 2015, specifically the introduction of an 8 per cent corporation tax surcharge on bank profits and a reduction in the Bank Levy.The Brief, by SPERI Doctoral Researcher Adam Barber and Tom Hunt, assesses the impact of the new surcharge on three categories of banking institutions: the big global banks headquartered in the UK; building societies; and challenger banks. It looks at the rationale used to make the bank tax changes and in doing so raises questions about the purpose and proportionality of taxes levied upon banks in the UK.

The Resurrected Right and Disoriented Left

SPERI Paper No. 27

Craig Berry | February 2016

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Craig Berry explores the political economy of growth model transformation in Britain, analyses the political narratives offered by the British centre-left since the crisis, and argues that none have so far offered an effective transformative alternative. Craig’s paper is complemented by a set of responses from five leading thinkers from the worlds of politics, policy and academia: Martin Craig; Tony Greenham; Rachel Laurence; Adam Leaver and Stewart Wood.

International Capital Flows into London Property

Global Political Economy Brief No.2

| February 2016

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The Brief presents research findings from a two-year research project, led by SPERI Associate Fellow Rowland Atkinson and involving academics from Goldsmiths and York universities, which involved interviews with the super-rich in London and Hong Kong. It looks at the drivers behind growing international investment, why London is the preferred city of choice for the global super-rich, and the social impact upon the city which is experiencing a domestic housing crisis.

The Brief concludes by making a series of policy recommendations that could be implemented to address the city’s housing crisis. The researchers call for the creation of an Inclusive City Fund paid for by a new levy on sales of luxury London homes worth over £5 million. This ‘premium property’ levy could raise over £85m a year for new social and affordable housing in London. You can read coverage of the Brief in the Guardian and the Daily mail.

‘Eating or Heating’ and the impact of austerity

British Political Economy Brief No.19

Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Carolyn Snell and Tom Hunt | February 2016

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This Brief reveals the difficulty of low income households in the UK to afford sufficient food and fuel.  Research confirms that the ‘heating or eating’ dilemma exists, but the reality is more complex and severe than is often reported in the media and political debates. Interviews with food bank users revealed that their decision is not choosing to heat or eat, but how to spend less on their food and fuel. The Brief also presents new findings on the specific challenges faced by rural communities which drive rural food and fuel poverty.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Social Rights in Crisis EU

SPERI Paper No.26

Robbie Pye and Owen Parker | January 2016

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This Paper shows that the response to the Eurozone crisis has seen the empowerment of executive political actors and the hardening of a neoliberal macroeconomic strategy within the EU premised on achieving competitiveness by constraining the wages and conditions of workers. The social cost of this response has been severe and has undermined the legitimacy of the European project, which the governance structures of the Eurozone, in their current form, are unable to address.

The authors argue that the EU is capable of taking immediate steps to redress this social crisis by incorporating rights mechanisms based on the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into the governance of the Eurozone and by looking outside the EU to the European Committee of Social Rights for appropriate standards on social rights. These steps build on developments already present in the EU, but have hitherto been side-lined in the response to the Eurozone crisis, and are thus achievable in the short term.

Ethical Audits and the Supply Chains of Global Corporations

Global Political Economy Brief No.1

Genevieve LeBaron and Jane Lister | January 2016

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Incidents such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 and the exposé of slavery and human trafficking in the Thai shrimp industry in 2014 have focused attention on the supply chains of global corporations. The new Brief demonstrates that, despite increased ‘audits’ and inspections, labour abuses, poor working conditions and environmental degradation within global supply chains remain widespread. Ultimately, the Brief concludes that the auditing system for global supply chains is ‘working’ for corporations, but failing workers in developing countries and the planet. You can read coverage of the Brief in the Guardian.


Neoliberalism, austerity and the UK media

British Political Economy Brief No.18

Luke Temple | December 2015

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This Brief shows that a neoliberal narrative has permeated much of the newspaper coverage of hard economic times in the UK since 2007. Quotes and claims from political, market and civil society actors are shown to all draw from a similar framework of reference: treating people primarily as ‘market citizens’, arguably stripping them of their social and political traits. The Brief considers whether this affect how we respond to the current economic situation.

Comparing the post-crisis performance of the Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford city-region economies

British Political Economy Brief No.17

Tom Hunt | November 2015

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This Brief considers the post-financial crisis structure and performance of three city-region economies, centred around Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford. It explores a range of economic indicators for each city-region economy over the last decade and assesses the impact of the crisis and recovery in each area.

The UK’s ‘annual tax summaries’

British Political Economy Brief No.16

Liam Stanley and Todd Hartman | November 2015

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This brief presents the results from a new study by Dr Liam Stanley and Dr Todd Hartman that tested how annual tax summaries might impact upon public support for welfare and taxation. The results show that the Government’s presentation of public spending data in their annual tax summaries – with welfare listed as the top category – may lead to lower support for state spending, and could contribute to anti-welfare sentiments.

Building a Growth Strategy on a New Social Settlement

SPERI Paper No.25

David Coates | October 2015

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In the wake of the 2015 election defeat, centre-left politics in the UK requires a fundamental makeover. The paper argues that the redesign needed is one both of method and of content. Successful progressive politics always requires the building of a credible counter-hegemonic project. The building of that project needs to begin now.

Public infrastructure investment & business activity in the English regions

British Political Economy Brief No.15

Craig Berry, Tom Hunt and Laura White | September 2015

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This brief examines public spending on infrastructure investment in England and assesses its relationship with private sector business activity on a regional basis. Infrastructure investment forms a key part of the Government’s ‘long term economic plan’ and the Treasury’s recent Productivity Plan identified it as a key component for raising productivity.

The Brief analyses the Government’s National Infrastructure Pipeline and shows that London is set to receive more infrastructure investment than every other English region combined. The findings call into question one of the key arguments used by the Government to underpin their austerity agenda which is that public investment ‘crowds out’ private sector activity.

China’s Renewable Energy Revolution

John A Matthews and Hao Tan | August 2015

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In this book the authors suggest that China's renewable energy system, the largest in the world, will quickly supersede the black energy system that has powered the country's rapid rise as workshop of the world and for reasons that have more to do with fixing environmental pollution and enhancing energy security than with curbing carbon emissions.

Corporate Welfare State: Public Provision for Private Businesses

SPERI Paper No. 24

Kevin Farnsworth | July 2015

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Although it is widely assumed that public services are organised and delivered for the sole benefit of citizens, the reality is very different. In this ground-breaking report, Dr Farnsworth of the University of York seeks to conceptualise the function, as well as the size, of the British corporate welfare state to inform a much needed debate about the ways in which corporate welfare is funded and delivered.

Has the UK economy been ‘rebalanced’?

British Political Economy Brief No.14

Craig Berry and Colin Hay | July 2015

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This brief considers the available evidence on whether the UK economy has experienced any significant degree of ‘rebalancing’ since 2010. The need to correct a range of structural imbalances in the British economy has become associated in particular with the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, but has emerged as a rare shared objective in economic policy for all the major political parties.

The Failure of Austerity

SPERI Paper No. 23

Robert Skidelsky | June 2015

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This Paper is drawn from the Annual SPERI Lecture given by Lord Robert Skidelsky in The Octagon at the University of Sheffield on 19th May 2015. In his lecture Lord Skidelsky deplored the ‘appallingly’ low level of public debate about economic matters. We are pleased to publish his lecture as a SPERI Paper, hence contributing to a better understanding of the intellectual arguments dividing advocates of austerity and their critics.

Inequality Redux

SPERI Paper No. 22

Staff and Students of SPERI | June 2015

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From February to April 2015, SPERI Comment: the political economy blog ran a series of linked posts by SPERI staff and students, all devoted to the theme of inequality. The posts were intended to paint into place a different backcloth to the issues that were being debated in the British General Election campaign that was running as the posts were published. Inequality was very much the dog that did not bark very loudly in that campaign. Now that the election is over and a new majority Conservative government has been elected in Britain, SPERI republishes the series of posts as a contribution to the cause of continuing the debate in Britain about the deeply worrying trend in society and political economy towards intensified inequality.

SPERI Report: Food, poverty and policy: evidence base and knowledge gaps

Hannah Lambie-Mumford and Rebecca O'Connell | June 2015

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The recent rise in food banks in the UK has drawn particularly stark attention to the issue of food insecurity and has initiated a heated public and highly politicised debate. There is now a considerable amount of research being undertaken into the extent and experience of household food insecurity in the UK. This is the report of a worshop which brought together around 60 delegates with the aim of showcasing cutting-edge findings and reflecting on the implications of what we know to identify the key gaps in our evidence base that need filling as well as exploring the intersections between non-academic researchers, practitioners and the academy.

Conservative support in Northern England at the 2015 general election

British Political Economy Brief No.13

Craig Berry June 2015

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This brief considers the evolving basis of UKIP’s electoral support with reference in particular to whether more deprived communities are likely to support the party. The argument that the Green Party and Scottish National Party will take votes from Labour, whilst UKIP will grow at the Conservatives’ expense, is too simplistic. The evidence examined here challenges this notion in relation to UKIP’s support. The Brief demonstrates that prospective UKIP supporters typically reside in areas with high levels of deprivation, and that the party may pose as great a threat to Labour as it does to the Conservatives.

The Moment when ‘Then’ became ‘Now’: Reflections on the Winter of Discontent after the Opening of the Archives

SPERI Paper No. 21

Colin Hay | May 2015

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In this paper Colin Hay reflects on the first book length studies of the period covering the Winter of Discontent published since the opening of the archives. He argues that although neither study profoundly alters our view of this crucial episode and its place in the pre-history of Thatcherism, taken together the evidence they bring to light might provide the basis for an alternative assessment. Ultimately, however, such an assessment requires more attention to methodology and, above all, an approach to the archives and to witness testimony that is both more inductive and more deductive than that exhibited in the existing literature. In the process the author hopes to clarify what we now know and we have still to learn about the Winter of 1978-79 and the popular mythology to which it gave rise.

The relationship between deprivation and UKIP’s electoral support

British Political Economy Brief No.12

Chris Kirkland and Craig Berry | April 2015

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This brief considers the evolving basis of UKIP’s electoral support with reference in particular to whether more deprived communities are likely to support the party. The argument that the Green Party and Scottish National Party will take votes from Labour, whilst UKIP will grow at the Conservatives’ expense, is too simplistic. The evidence examined here challenges this notion in relation to UKIP’s support. The Brief demonstrates that prospective UKIP supporters typically reside in areas with high levels of deprivation, and that the party may pose as great a threat to Labour as it does to the Conservatives.

The Revenge of Sovereignty: the SNP, the Financial Crisis and UK Constitutional Reform

SPERI Paper No.20

James Stafford | March 2015

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This paper offers a critical examination of the interaction between the SNP’s constitutional agenda, its shifting attitude to EU integration, and its economic policy goals. It adopts a historical perspective stretching back to the 1970s, and relates the SNP’s vision of social democracy as enhanced regional development policy to the 1990s European legal discourses of ‘post-sovereignty’ and ‘subsidiarity’. It asserts that there are few substantive differences between the post-sovereign model of independence proposed in the Referendum of 2014 and the ‘full fiscal autonomy’ demanded by the SNP at the 2015 UK General Election. It questions whether this policy response is really adequate to the condition of the UK economy following the financial crisis of 2007-9 and the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone. Finally, it makes some suggestions towards an alternative model of reform that would prioritise the democratic accountability of fiscal and monetary policy across the whole UK.

Contemporary Discourses on the Environment-Economy Nexus

SPERI Paper No.19

Hayley Stevenson | March 2015

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For over two decades, the concept of sustainable development has been salient in political discourse. But its promise of reconciling economic development, social welfare, and environmental sustainability has proven rather elusive. In recent years we’ve seen numerous competing concepts emerge in debates about sustainable economic development. While many advance ideas of a green economy and green growth, others talk about wellbeing, gross national happiness, inclusive wealth, harmony with nature, de-growth, steady-state economy, and buen vivir (living well).

This rhetorical diversity shows that there is no single vision for reconciling environmental sustainability and economic development. But the varied terminology itself obscures actual points of agreement and disagreement.

This paper reports on a bilingual ‘Q study’ of international debates about sustainable economic development. It reveals that three discourses underpin these debates: Radical Transformationism; Cooperative Reformism; and Statist Progressivism). The paper dissects these discourses and contextualises their key points of contention in wider sustainability debates over the past two decades.

The UK housing market and stamp duty reform

British Political Economy Brief No.11

Craig Berry | March 2015

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In this Brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute assesses evidence on trends within the UK housing market since the financial crisis. It concentrates in this regard on regional differences within the apparent housing market recovery, and considers what these differences indicate about the nature of the UK’s post-crisis growth model and the purpose of schemes such as ‘Help to Buy’. The Brief also assesses the regional impact of the coalition government’s recent changes to stamp duty on housing transactions – announced in December 2014 – and considers what this measure tells us about the government’s economic stewardship. It finds that regional housing inequalities have widened, and that the coalition government’s decision to significantly reduce stamp duty indicates that it is relatively unconcerned by this trend, and the economy’s dependence on the housing market more generally.

Addressing Food Poverty in the UK: Charity, Rights and Welfare

SPERI Paper No.18

Hannah Lambie-Mumford | February 2015

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This SPERI paper presents findings from a study into the rise of charitable emergency food provision in the UK and its implications for food rights. Since the mid-2000s there has been a proliferation of charitable projects providing help to people in need who would otherwise not be able to access food and the research sought to examine what this meant for the progressive realisation of the right to food for all in the UK. The research found that emergency food charities were valued sites of care and social solidarity, doing important work in local communities. However, with a particular focus on the social acceptability and sustainability of food access through these systems, the research also found that emergency food charity did not live up to ‘right to food’ standards. The findings highlight how charitable emergency food providers are in practice assuming the responsibility of alleviating acute food crises in the absence of the adequate state response that the notion of a ‘right to food’ requires. This paper argues that the human right to food provides a progressive solution to rising levels of food need in the UK and that policy makers alongside other stakeholders should work together to develop a right to food strategy as a matter of urgency.

Public and private sector employment across the UK since the financial crisis

British Political Economy Brief No.10

Scott Lavery | February 2015

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In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute shows that since the 2008 financial crisis, London has been relatively protected from public sector job losses compared to other regions in the UK.

This means that whilst London and the South East have increased their share of public sector jobs from 23.7% to 25.1% of the UK total, the North of England has seen its share drop from 25.2% to 24.2%.

Whilst one of the main justifications for austerity has been that the public sector ‘crowds out’ private sector employment, the brief shows that the region with the fastest private sector employment growth – London – has also seen the smallest reduction in its proportion of public sector employment.

This suggests that public sector jobs can be complementary to rather than in conflict with the goal of building an equitable and sustainable economy for the UK.


Income tax revenue and economic change in the UK

British Political Economy Brief No.9

Craig Berry and Chris Kirkland | December 2014

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In this Brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) responds to the coalition government’s 2014 Autumn Statement by considering the optimism and accuracy of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s income tax revenue forecasts, and related forecasts, since 2010.

The Autumn Statement confirms the comprehensive failure of the coalition’s deficit reduction agenda, in part due to lower than expected tax revenue forecasts, but the consistent mismatch between economic forecasts and economic reality reveals a failure to acknowledge the profound changes in the UK economy which have accelerated since the financial crisis.

The Global Governance of Global Crisis: Why the G20 Summit was Created and What We still Need it to Do

SPERI Paper No.17

Tony Payne | November 2014

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In advance of the next G20 Summit which will take place in Brisbane, Australia on 15-16 November 2014, Tony Payne advocates the need for an effective, functioning G20.  The body was elevated to leaders’ level in order to steer the apparatus of global governance through times of great uncertainty from 2008 onwards.  Its record is not without achievement over its short life, but remains disappointing overall.  Many commentators talk of the G20’s decline, which makes its next summit an important test of its efficacy.  The G20 needs substantial institutional reform to become what we all now need it to be.

Credit Rating Agencies: A Constitutive and Diachronic Analysis

SPERI Paper No.16

Ginevra Marandola and Timothy Sinclair | October 2014

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Credit rating agencies are poorly understood institutions and thus far efforts to govern them through rule-making have been ineffective. In this paper, Timothy Sinclair and Ginevra Marandola argue attention to rules governing behaviour is actually mistaken when it comes to finance and rating agencies. The global financial crisis occurred not because of rule-breaking but because some relatively simple but crucial social relationships came apart and prevented market actors from transacting with each other, as they had prior to the crisis.

This breakdown involves quite different sorts of rules to those normally considered by regulators. Regulation has not made rating more sound and transparent, and there seems little appreciation of the barriers to improvement. The authors highlight the weaknesses of the typical resort to regulative rules, and show why it has not worked in the case of the credit rating agencies. Agencies have abandoned the norms that made them essential organizations in financial markets: the authors discuss some measures they think will return credit rating agencies to their role as reliable ‘information intermediaries.’ Rating cannot become a science, but the diachronic and constitutive approach advocated here should help prevent credit rating agencies becoming a catalyst to another global financial crisis.

Inequality and class prejudice in an age of austerity

British Political Economy Brief No.8

Gill Valentine | October 2014

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This brief shows that British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed people and other disadvantaged groups, with a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy. The evidence presented in this brief is based on 90 interviews which were conducted in Leeds with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds. The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working. We appear to be witnessing therefore the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era. There is a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

The brief has been authored by Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield.

The relationship between economic growth and population growth

British Political Economy Brief No.7

Craig Berry | September 2014

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In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the relationship between population growth and economic growth in the UK. The fact that populations and economic output tend to grow in tandem, albeit at different rates, has been well-documented. However, the link between population growth and economic growth in the UK appears to have weakened. The implications of this shift are not clear. Certainly, productivity improvements are not driving the present recovery in economic output, and it may be that rapid population growth, in the context of the increasing dependence on labour-intense industries, offers the only viable path to growth for the UK under the present economic model. In advance of the Scottish independence referendum, the Brief also includes specific analysis of the relationship between population growth and economic growth in Scotland.

The Pricing of Everything

SPERI Paper No.15

George Monbiot | July 2014

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This Paper is drawn from the Annual SPERI Lecture given by George Monbiot in The Octagon at the University of Sheffield on 29 April 2014. George Monbiot’s lecture is a powerful summary of his ongoing commentary and critique of neoliberal doctrine and its impact on environmental and social sustainability.

Local authority spending cuts and the 2014 English local elections

British Political Economy Brief No.6

| July 2014

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In this brief, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the variable impact of local authority spending cuts across England, with reference to differences based on regional location, levels of deprivation and the political composition of councils. It also considers evidence on the cuts experienced by the specific councils affected by the 2014 English local elections, that is, those won by Labour, lost by the Conservatives, or where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) made significant gains. It shows there is a clear pattern to the cuts experienced by local authorities in England: councils in the North, in more deprived areas, and/or controlled by Labour have, generally speaking, been most affected by reductions in spending power at the local level. The extent to which the 2014 local elections were influenced by this differential impact is less clear, although some interesting trends are apparent.

The hyper-Anglicisation of active labour market policy: facilitating and exemplifying a flawed growth model

SPERI Paper No.14

Craig Berry | June 2014

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The paper analyses the UK’s approach to active labour market policy, which has been a central feature of economic statecraft in the UK since the 1990s. Yet despite the UK pioneering the ‘supply side revolution’, the country spends little on this area of policy in comparison to most other European countries. Expenditure is heavily concentrated on relatively inexpensive ‘job-search’ services, and active labour market policy interventions in fact overlap with cost-reducing ‘welfare to work’ initiatives, designed to improve work incentives for those with the lowest incomes. Despite a rhetorical indictment of New Labour policy in this area, the coalition government has continued and intensified recent policy practice, and as such focused on compelling individuals to accept low-paid, low-quality employment opportunities. The paper argues that active labour market policy is not a response to labour market conditions, but constitutive of the institutional framework which gives rise to certain labour market forms. Low spending does not mean that active labour market policy is marginal to the UK’s growth model and associated economic statecraft; rather, spending on job-search services seems to typify the understanding of employment – and the state’s limited role in determining the level and nature of employment – inherent in the Anglo-liberal growth model.

The evolution of the UK tax base

British Political Economy Brief No.5

Daniel Bailey and Craig Berry | June 2014

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Taxation takes many different forms, encompassing progressive taxes such as income tax, regressive taxes such as Value Added Tax, and taxes targeted on private enterprises such as corporation tax. The economic downturn significantly affected tax revenues, and the Coalition Government since 2010 has sought to cut some taxes, to boost economic recovery, but at the same time raise others, in support of deficit reduction. It is important to consider, therefore, what impact these changes have had on the nature of the UK tax base as a whole. The evidence shows that regressive taxes now make up a higher proportion of tax revenues, and both progressive individual taxes and taxation targeted on private enterprises make up a lower proportion. Furthermore, revenue from business taxes is set to contract even further, even as economic growth returns, as proposed cuts are fully implemented.

Climate Risk, Big Data and the Weather Market

SPERI Paper No.13

Jo Bates | May 2014

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This paper analyses the development of weather index-based risk products as a response to climate instability. Through analysis of two different forms of weather market – weather derivatives and weather index-based insurance schemes for farmers in developing countries – the paper makes the key argument that it is important to understand how these emerging responses to climate change seem likely to empower established economic interests, whilst deepening the threats facing the majority, and particularly the most vulnerable in society.

Civic Capitalism

SPERI Paper No.12

Colin Hay and Tony Payne | May 2014

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It is time to move on from the analysis of the failings of the now infamous Anglo-liberal model of capitalism. This paper sets the basic outlines of a new model  that will work better in advanced capitalist societies:  ‘Civic Capitalism’.  Here the word civic is deployed in its simplest and most straightforward sense – ‘pertaining to’ and ‘working for’ all of us in society, not just as consumers, or rational egotists, or even voters, but rather as citizens of a democratic polity.

Nine core elements of a new model are identified and explored. They address issues of ideology, the role of the state, the regulation of markets, the promotion of sustainable development, the idea of social quality, the redress of inequality and the reform of global governance.

In calling for the development of a civic capitalist alternative we need to remind ourselves that capitalism can and must be made to work for us.  We can no longer be driven by its perceived imperatives and by those who have claimed for far too long – and, as it turns out, falsely – to be able to discern for us what capitalism needs.  We argue here that it is now time to ask what capitalism can do for us and not what we can do for capitalism.  If civic capitalism has a single mantra, then that is it.

Britain’s Post Crisis Political Economy: A ‘Recovery’ through Regressive Redistribution

SPERI Paper No.11

Jeremy Green and Scott Lavery | April 2014

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In this paper Green and Lavery question the foundations of Britain’s much-vaunted economic recovery. They argue that, acting in tandem, the impact of Quantitative Easing and key processes of labour market restructuring have made the burden of economic adjustment highly regressive, redistributing wealth upwards and privileging asset-holders. The present growth model must be reoriented towards a recovery that stops and then reverses this bias towards growth that benefits the few. This would involve a combination of fiscal and monetary policy measures alongside an effort to drive wage-led growth and lessen the dependence upon private household debt.

Food bank provision and welfare reform in the UK

British Political Economy Brief No.4

Hannah Lambie-Mumford | April 2014

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This brief is focused on the impact of recent welfare reform in the UK on driving need for food bank provision. It is based on research conducted as part of a three-year study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), into the growth of nationally co-ordinated or facilitated emergency food provision in the UK. This analysis is relevant to developing an understanding of the evolving boundaries of responsibility for welfare provision between state and civil society. The brief suggests that the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into hunger and food poverty should examine this issue closely, with a key emphasis on the fairness and adequacy of social protection. Welfare reform and the role it will leave for food banks should be examined by the Inquiry in terms of responsibility and be guided by the question of whose responsibility it is to protect people from hunger.

The brief has been authored by Hannah Lambie-Mumford in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography. You can contact Hannah at

The Hollande Presidency, the Eurozone Crisis & the Politics of Fiscal Rectitude

SPERI Paper No.10

Ben Clift | March 2014

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This paper analyses the political economy of the Hollande Presidency in France, evaluating the economic policies pursued by the French Socialist President since May 2012. It explains the limited coherence and success of economic policy under Hollande in terms of constraints operating at domestic and European levels, and through credibility concerns of financial markets. Domestically, it highlights difficulties managing the presidential majority, notably due to presidentialised factionalism within French Socialism. At the European level it explores disagreements within the Franco-German relationship over which economic ideas should underpin macroeconomic policies to tackle Europe’s recession and efforts to resolve the Eurozone crisis.

The regional impact of increasing the personal tax allowance

British Political Economy Brief No.3

Craig Berry | March 2014

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In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the differential regional impact in England of raising the income tax personal allowance – a measure announced by George Osborne at the Budget on 19th March 2014. The measure has been championed by both coalition partners as a form of support for the low paid workers. However, the extent to which individuals benefit depends on the extent of their income that is ‘taxable’, and the proximity of their income to other tax thresholds. The evidence presented in this brief shows that those who do not benefit at all – as a result of earning less than the current allowance – are more likely to live in Northern regions (particularly Yorkshire and the Humber) and the South-West. The measure therefore neither benefits the lowest paid, nor alleviates regional inequality.

The Social Bases of Austerity: European Tunnel Vision and the Curious Case of the Missing Left

SPERI Paper No.9

Stephanie Mudge | February 2014

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The grip of austerity in European politics presents a double puzzle: electorally weak centre-left parties that appear unable or unwilling to formulate an alternative, and the surprising efficiency with which the EU, international institutions, and national governments have jointly pursued ‘fiscal consolidation’. This is all the more surprising in historical perspective, since many left parties emerged from the last great crisis as vehicles for building voter appeal on the basis of a marriage of ‘new’ economics with the traditional leftist theme of equality. Why are today’s centre-left parties failing to replay this historical role?

This paper looks into this puzzle by considering how the relationship between professional economics and party politics changed between the late interwar years and the present, noting that this relationship has produced two kinds of authority figures in unsettled times: the national, party-based economist (NPE) of the 1930s versus the European economist-technocrat (EET)that features prominently today. I suggest that the EET expresses a historically specific European political order in which professional economics tends to exert authority over, not through, partisan politics. This shift, I argue, may help to explain the curious persistence of tunnel vision in European politics since the crisis.

Sterling depreciation and the UK trade balance

British Political Economy Brief No.2

Craig Berry and Scott Lavery February | 2014

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In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers the relationship between the relative value of sterling and the UK trade balance. When a country’s currency depreciates in value relative to its major competitors, its exports become cheaper (and imports become more expensive); the depreciation of sterling experienced in the wake of the financial crisis should therefore have boosted policy-makers’ efforts to rebalance the economy towards exports and away from the domestic consumption of imported goods – as occurred following depreciation in the 1970s and early 1990s. However, there is no evidence of an improved trade balance following the recent depreciation of sterling, suggesting significant imbalances in the UK economy.

Pay in Manufacturing and finance

British Political Economy Brief No.1

Craig Berry and Adam Barber | January 2014

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In this brief the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) considers what levels of pay across different sectors tells us about the experience of economic rebalancing since the financial crisis. In an economy rebalanced towards manufacturing, and away from financial services, we would expect to see the pay gap between these two sectors beginning to close. However, the gap has increased rather than decreased. Furthermore, pay in real estate activities is catching up to pay in manufacturing, further undermining the role of manufacturing in boosting exports and technological dispersion.

Uneconomic Economics and the Crisis of the Model World

Matthew Watson | January 2014

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What has gone wrong with economics? Economists now routinely devise highly sophisticated abstract models that score top marks for theoretical rigour but are clearly divorced from observable activities in the current economy. This creates an 'uneconomic economics', where models explain relationships in blackboard rather than real-life markets.

The British Growth Crisis

Editors: Jeremy Green, Colin Hay and Peter Taylor-Gooby | January 2014

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Britain remains mired in the most severe and prolonged economic crisis that it has faced since the 1930s. What would it take to find a new, more stable and more sustainable growth model for Britain in the years ahead? This important volume written by a number of influential commentators seeks to provide some answers.


The Crisis of the Euro: The Problem of German Power Revisited

SPERI Paper No.8

Helen Thompson | December 2013

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The durability of the euro appears to rest on the impossibility of abandoning it, rather than reform that would address its fundamental flaws. In practice, this makes the euro dependent on Germany’s commitment to maintain it. This paper considers whether Germany’s commitment to the euro is proven in the context of its history with European monetary arrangements since the last years of Bretton Woods and its actions during the euro zone crisis in light of German interests in the sovereign debt and banking crisis.  It argues that Germany’s support for European monetary arrangements has always been conditional on Germany’s ability to insist on monetary stability and that the conjunction of the reappearance of German structural monetary power in the bond markets and Germany’s actions during the crisis have made the euro zone a site of potentially disintegrative conflict. It concludes that Germany’s commitment to the euro is unproven.

Are We There Yet? Growth, rebalancing and the pseudo-recovery

SPERI Paper No.7

Craig Berry | November 2013

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In 2013, economic growth in Britain started to gather pace, after several years of under-performance. This has led to claims that the British economy is finally recovering, and moreover, that the ‘austerity’ pursued by the coalition government since 2010 has been successful. This paper offers a sustained scrutiny of such claims, and examines evidence on whether the economy is ‘rebalancing’ away from the key aspects of the pre-crisis growth model – as promised by the coalition government upon taking office. The paper argues that the resurgence of growth is, to some extent, illusory. Insofar as the economy is experiencing recovery, it is best characterised as a ‘pseudo-recovery’ in that it has been facilitated by a return to the pre-crisis growth model. Given that the flaws and contradictions of the pre-crisis growth model have not been addressed by the coalition government, the recovery is likely to prove unsustainable.

The UK’s Innovation Deficit and How to Repair it

SPERI Paper No.6

Richard Jones | October 2013

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The UK’s economy is much less research and development (R&D) intensive than it was thirty years ago, and it is now significantly less R&D intensive than other developed economies.  This paper argues that this decline, primarily in applied research carried out in the private sector and in government funded strategic research, represents an important loss of the UK’s innovative capacity, is a direct consequence of recent changes in its political economy, and reflects in a highly developed form more general worldwide trends.  The need for radical innovations in the material and biological realms is highlighted, for example, by the challenges of developing competitively priced low-carbon energy sources, and in caring for ageing populations in a cost effective way.  If the UK is to play its part in meeting these challenges, and if it is to develop a new, sustainable basis for long-term economic growth, this loss of innovative capacity needs to be reversed.

The Great Uncertainty

SPERI Paper No.5

Colin Hay and Tony Payne | September 2013

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This paper emerges out of a series of blogs that we jointly posted on SPERI Comment between 30 January and 18 July 2013. They sought to set out and link together the different aspects of SPERI’s intellectualt agenda. The blogs attracted a certain amount of attention and discussion and are gathered up here into a single argument for ease of access.

In the paper we claim that the current era in which we are living is best labelled ‘The Great Uncertainty’ and suggest, by deliberate use of this term, that the present conjuncture is being shaped by a remarkable, and hugely challenging, coalescence of three major processes of structural change occurring simultaneously and interacting in all manner of complicated ways.

They can be distinguished analytically as follows:

Financial crisis: a largely Western crisis brought about by neoliberal excess and now rendering the resumption of economic growth a severe conundrum for the US, Japan and nearly all major European economies and a problem at least for the rest of the global economy;
Shifting economic power: the recent intensification of longstanding movements in the locus of economic power in the world characterised by the rise of countries like China, India, Brazil and several others too;
Environmental threat: the eventual realisation that climate change is both real and accelerating and is now asking the most serious questions about the on-going viability of traditional notions of economic growth and indeed the good society itself.

How to Make a Bad Problem Worse: The US Federal Reserve’s Rescue of Bear Stearns

SPERI Paper No.4

Matthew Watson | July 2013

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When Bear Stearns, one of Wall Street’s fabled pre-crisis ‘big five’ investment banks, faced imminent collapse in March 2008, the Federal Reserve intervened.  It blurred the boundaries of its own legal remit by using public money to help facilitate Bear’s purchase by the commercial bank, JPMorgan Chase.  It did so to prevent increasingly worthless mortgage-backed securities from creating gaping holes in the balance sheets of the entire US banking industry.  Yet the Fed’s actions also ran contrary to US regulators’ justification for their tolerance towards the complex derivatives that created the mortgage securitisation business in the first place: namely, that they provide the impetus for ‘market completeness’ by synthetically linking one financial market to another. 

Full market completion has been the objective of US lawmakers since the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 formally dismantled the Glass-Steagall ‘wall’ between investment and commercial banking activities, and stipulating the abstract conditions of full market completion has also been one of the most highly prized goals of pure economics since the seminal theoretical writings of Léon Walras in the 1870s.  However, general equilibrium economics has never been able to provide a genuinely economic rationale for policies that push in the direction of market completion.  Moreover, the Fed’s actions in using Morgan as a conduit for rescuing Bear have in practice merely complicated the matter further.  They were presented as facilitating a market rescue that would prevent future financial crises from occurring, but they had the effect of allowing the largest banks to take the whole of the subprime securitisation cycle in-house.  This in turn makes market-based checks and balances against the future inflation of subprime securitisation bubbles much less robust.

Power, Politics and the City of London: Before and After the Great Financial Crisis

SPERI Paper No.3

Sukhdev Johal, Michael Moran and Karel Williams | July 2013

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The paper examines the power of finance in the UK in the light of debates about the meaning of power.  It distinguishes four faces of power.  Three are drawn from an established political science literature: decision, agenda control and non-decision.  The fourth is derived from the work of Foucault, capillary power.  We argue that these constitute historical strategies by finance in the UK to escape democratic control, and chart the historical evolution of these strategies.  The financial crisis of 2007-8 involved the collapse of a strategy pursued in the last generation to install a system of capillary power.  Finance has therefore been driven back to exercising power by the control over decision.

Capitalist Diversity, Work and Employment Relations

SPERI Paper No.2

Christel Lane and Geoffrey Wood | March 2013

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The great value of the literature on comparative capitalism is its emphasis on the persistent viability of alternative models to market liberalism. Central to the viability of more heavily coordinated markets are specific production regimes, supported through cooperative work and employment relations, encompassing significant participation and involvement, strong industry and firm skills sets, and bargaining centralisation. In contrast, the liberal market model is distinguished by less strong unions, decentralised bargaining, weaker worker rights, insecure tenure and flexible labour markets. As such, this approach has considerable value as a theoretical starting point both for categorising different national industrial relations regimes and in explaining the spatial concentration of specific sets of industrial relations practices. At the same time, whilst the nation-state remains an important level of analysis, there is considerable variety in practice both within nations and capitalist archetypes. This would reflect the fact that institutions are rarely closely coupled, with distinct regional and sectoral dynamics. Moreover, supra-national forces may not only erode national distinctiveness, but also reinforce difference between nations.

The British Growth Crisis: a Crisis of and for Growth

SPERI Paper No.1

Colin Hay | January 2013

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The global financial crisis which first began to make itself apparent in 2007 and then broke with full force in the autumn of 2008 has generated an intense debate in academic, business, journalistic and political circles alike about what went wrong and how operational faults in the prevailing Western model of political economy might best be repaired. More importantly, it has at last also begun to stimulate a deeper, albeit slower moving, consideration of whether the Anglo-American world in particular was working with the right model of political economy in the first place. It is the view I seek to defend here that if we are to address properly the former set of concerns – with what went wrong and how we might start to put it right – it is with the latter that we must start. For it is only by acknowledging the complicity and culpability of a decidedly and distinctly Anglo-American conception of capitalism in the inflation and then bursting of the bubble, that we can begin to see the full extent of what is broken and what now must be fixed. It is to this agenda that the present paper speaks. It draws on a now substantial body of empirical research, but it seeks to do so in a rather novel way – to argue that the crisis is best seen as a crisis of and indeed for growth and not as a crisis of debt. It is, moreover, a crisis of and for an excessively liberalised Anglo-American form of capitalism and the Anglo-liberal growth model (as I will call it) to which it gave rise. This is a form of capitalism and a growth model that was inherently unstable and threatened the entire world economy – its excesses cannot be tolerated again.

The Failure of Anglo-liberal Capitalism

Colin Hay | January 2013

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In this book Colin Hay argues that the crisis in which we are still mired is best seen as a crisis of growth and not as a crisis of debt. It is a crisis of and for an excessively liberalised form of capitalism and the Anglo-liberal growth model to which it gave rise.