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About William Davies

William Davies is a Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is Director of the Political Economy Research Centre. His weblog is at and his new book is The Happiness Industry: How the government & big business sold us wellbeing (published by Verso).

Articles by William Davies

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

‘Go Home?’ – five years on

On bordering, the referendum and Windrush: "It might be a dangerous moment but it is a moment when the old tricks of government cannot be repeated." Chain letter between UK researchers, June – September, 2018.

Happiness and children

Depression and anxiety are rising rapidly among young people: what’s going on?

The difficulty of 'neoliberalism'

Disagreement over words is surely to be welcomed in a pluralist intellectual and political culture. Why is neoliberalism so provocative? Why is it Blairites in particular that are so provoked?

The corruption of happiness

Anger and injustice need hearing, not treating. Unhappiness can be healthy.

What have we lost in the shift from cigarettes to smartphones?

The transition from cigarettes to phones highlights wider social shifts that the digital age of late capitalism has ushered in.

In praise of family existentialism

Two enraged, thrilling epics of the everyday make the reader the equivalent of the algorithm, seeking patterns amidst the mess, but accepting that there's no causal grand theory. A review.

Neoliberalism and the revenge of the “social”

Neoliberalism was launched as an attack on socialism, as a state-centric project; it is now being subtly reinvented, in ways that take account of the social nature of the individual. 

Getting economists to wake up to reality

The Uneconomics series challenged the power of economists, inviting diverse perspectives from disciplines whose work on the economy has been increasingly recognised post-crash. This reflection by the editor ends the nine month series.

'Central banks should admit their mistakes': an interview with the Bank of England's Andy Haldane

Andy Haldane, Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, has been hailed as a new type of policy expert and intellectual. In this interview, for our Uneconomics series, he sets out his vision for the future of economics and economic policy-making. It is a future where central banks are humble, "listen as often as they speak", and own up to their mistakes.

An intelligent industrial policy: and pigs might fly?

The call for a return to an ‘active industrial policy’ has failed to present a modern challenge to finance capitalism. For this argument to ring true in the 21st century, it must first consider with what type of knowledge it is now engaged. How can policy itself escape the pitfalls of nostalgia, lobbying and the bailout mentality? 

Taking risks with the economy? It's time to throw caution to the wind

What do British banks and prisons have in common? They are both part of systems designed to manage risks and that are now part of the problem. We need to break the cycle by opening up policy-making to more experimental, less familiar forms of intervention and regulation. What is there to lose, that the financial status quo isn't already losing? There may be a lesson here for the rest of the West as well.

Uneconomics: a challenge to the power of the economics profession

The fall-out from the financial crash is continuing to destroy lives around the globe, yet the power of economists is being entrenched, rather than questioned. In this debate, we bring together anthropologists, sociologists, historians and heterodox economists to ask and answer the big questions.

Happy now? As Britain prepares to measure 'wellbeing', we conclude our happiness debate

As Britain publishes its first 'national wellbeing indicators', OurKingdom wraps up our debate on happiness. Here, the editor of the debate looks back on the series of articles inspired by the growing interest in happiness shown by politicians, economists, statisticians and psychologists.

Hack-gate: the latest cultural contradiction of British conservatism?

The Murdoch-owned British Sunday tabloid, 'News of the World', has sunk deeper into an ongoing hacking scandal. Given that the right-wing tabloid press is a bastion of the British conservative establishment, how will the scandal affect the character of UK conservatism?

National wellbeing: the ‘personalisation of the public interest’?

Democratic states want to prove their success to their citizens and one way to do this is to incorporate the feedback from them about their 'wellbeing'. Is personalised government about making citizens happy or pleasing the state?

Why Happiness? an interview with co-founder of Action for Happiness

William Davies interviews the co-founder of Action for Happiness to explore the philosophy, politics and economic implications of the happiness agenda

The uses and abuses of 'happiness'

The happiness 'movement' has the potential to transform society, but do its proponents know what they're doing? William Davies sets out four strands of the debate - philosophical, statistical, economical and psychological - and shows how confusion between them is hindering progress

The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as if the Future Matters

Diane Coyle’s The Economics of Enough is an eerily calm introduction to the severity of our economic situation. While the facts outlined appear to justify an overhaul of our entire political economy, the book leaves us with disappointingly timid proposals for change.

Happiness and production

What is progress? Could our societies grow richer but everyone get more miserable? Is output the best measure of a nation's success? Such questions bring OurKingdom and openEconomy together to launch the Happiness Debate, which opens with an essay by Will Davies on the relationship between happiness and production.

Who is the fairest of them all? Nick Clegg? A short philosophical report on the torture of a simple word

A brief critique of the abuse of the term 'fairness' in British politics.

Book review: Them and Us by Will Hutton

Will Hutton’s latest book on British political economy is uncannily of its time. In arguing that ‘fairness’ should be the measure of all political and economic relations, writes William Davies, he has performed a crucial service in erecting some principles by which the ‘fairness’ of coalition policies might be judged.

Decoupling 'fairness' from class and power in the UK

Fairness is all the rage, it was Gordon Brown's mantra, is claimed by the Lib Dems and advocated by the UK's new one-nation Tory premier David Cameron. What chance does the concept have with friends like these? As Labour prepares for opposition it might be advised to try and different approach.

Recovery of what? We need a new way of assessing growth

With the collapse of the neo-liberal house of cards alternative paradigms are now being considered. But how can societies manage the shift from an exclusive focus on economic growth?

Maximisation, optimisation and all that

Will biological metaphors get economics out of its post-crisis dudgeon? Or is the problem the use of economics in society?

Forward to the Past! Charlie Leadbeater and Phillip Blond lead the way

From the Young Foundation to the Carlton Club, two English political intellectuals search for a way out of the country's crash

Republicans at work

If management rhetoric is anything to go by, the post-industrial workplace should be a pristine model of participative democracy. Strict, Taylorist routine has been out of favour, both economically and culturally, for well over thirty years now. It has been replaced by an emphasis on ‘teamwork', ‘the psychological contract', ‘dialogue' and ‘participation'.

William Davies is a Demos Associate and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation & Society, Said Business School. He blogs at

Earlier this year, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills commissioned David MacLeod, a management guru, to carry out a review of ‘employee engagement' as a necessary factor in Britain's future prosperity. Again, the case for flatter, more interactive relationships was made.

But what does any of this have to do with democracy or dispersal of power? The republican agenda, advanced by theorists such as Stuart White, Quentin Skinner and Philip Pettit, stresses the need to tackle forms of domination and restraint on positive freedoms, in all facets of society. The workplace can not be exempt from this sort of political critique. And yet a common assumption about the status of firms in society suggests that they sit in a political vacuum, allowing their decisions and structures to be only evaluated in terms of economic efficiency.

The problem with the managerial ‘participation' rhetoric is that it only values human autonomy to the extent that it contributes to productivity and business performance. Hence a growing feeling of irony pervades our workplaces, as described eloquently in the sociology of Richard Sennett, and conveyed brilliantly in the BBC sit-com, The Office.

We no longer mean the words we speak to each other at work. The rhetoric of equality and power appears to exert no friction on the dominant, Anglo-Saxon capitalist model, in which management power is unchallenged, so long as value is constantly returned to external shareholders. Some recent studies have shown a gradual decline in the number of employees who feel they have considerable control over their work.

The changing of the guard

A transforming political climate in Britain is shifting power in all directions. The momentous result for national politics may be that the home office becomes the principal department of government, says Will Davies.

Evidence-based policy and democracy

A lesson of recent failures on British government policy is that the quality of a democracy is measured in the way decisions are reached as much as in their outcomes, says William Davies.
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