New project: a book on government renewal

Having spent much of the last few years researching and writing about income inequality, I have a new project that I’m very excited about: a book about the renewal of government – what it does and how it does it – in the face of the major problems of the twenty-first century.

The big, interconnected issues confronting us, like inequality, climate change and technological disruption, are unlikely to be solved just by individual action or leaving things to the market. But the idea that government can do things well has been forcefully challenged in recent decades.

So what does the evidence – from politics, economics, psychology and other areas – tell us about what government is good at, and where it should and should not act? And how can government be reformed and genuinely democratised, so that it’s as open, transparent and fit for the twenty-first century as we need it to be, and is genuinely able to articulate the common good?

At the heart of this work are questions about our nature as social beings, what exactly it is that we want government to do, and the way that individuals, society and the environment are affected by the balance between state and market. There is also a question about cooperation and competition, and which of those twin engines of human behaviour offers us the best chance of forging a twenty-first century that works for everyone. Those are the kinds of issues I’ll be tackling.

As I set out on this project, I’d like to thank the Gama Foundation, for the support that is allowing me to spend time researching, thinking and writing, and my publishers, Bridget Williams Books, for their role in shaping and guiding this work.

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4 comments on “New project: a book on government renewal
  1. Thanks Max for this initiative.
    I hope the religious, theological, philosophical thinking currently developing in the project’s areas are given space for the contribution they are making.

    • Hi Roger, thanks for the comment, and apologies for the delay in responding. I’ll definitely be looking at the philosophical aspects of government and the different ways of thinking about it that are developing (one could very easily bring in Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, for instance). Religion and theology is a bit outside my area of expertise, although I respect the contributions of people in those fields of course. Cheers.

  2. I’m looking forward to reading this. You have done excellent work on inequality and this seems the natural next step. I’m presently reading Paul Mason’s, “Postcapitalism: a guide to our future” and finding it thought-provoking.

    • Thanks, and yes, it comes very much out of the inequality work: so many of the answers to inequality involve government, potentially, so how we think about government affects our ability to think about (and address) inequality. Personally I found Postcapitalism a bit frustrating, though admittedly thought-provoking. I didn’t agree with his core ideas about information being costless and I didn’t think that his vision amounted to an actual break with capitalism so much as a way of doing it differently. Look forward to your final thoughts though.

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