Theme: Political Economy | Content Type: Journal article

After Neoliberalism: Economic Theory and Policy in the Polycrisis

Michael Jacobs



| 1 min read

Mainstream economic theory and policy have struggled to address (and in some cases have made worse) the multiple economic crises since 2008—global financial crash, austerity, stalled productivity, wage stagnation, rising inequality, inflation, climate and environmental breakdown. At the root of this failure is the ‘ontological individualism’ which underpins neoclassical economic theory: the belief that individual households and firms are sovereign actors. It proposes in its place a premise of ‘ontological institutionism’—the view that economic behaviour is primarily influenced by the institutional structures and rules within which it occurs. Commonplace in other social sciences, this view radically changes economic analysis and policy prescription. Based on an explicit ethical definition of policy objectives, the article offers an ‘institutionally pluralist’ view proposing different kinds of institutions for five different spheres of economic life. Arguing that economic policy should be seen as a process of institutional design (not simply making markets more efficient), it offers some illustrative policy proposals in key fields, from climate change to business investment.

  • Michael-Jacobs_avatar.jpg

    Michael Jacobs

    Michael Jacobs is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sheffield. He was formerly a member of the Council of Economic Advisers at the Treasury, a special adviser to Gordon Brown in the No 10 Policy Unit, and Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice.

    Articles by Michael Jacobs
Volume 94, Issue 4

Latest Journal Issue

Volume 94, Issue 4

Includes a collection on Scottish Politics After Sturgeon, edited by Ben Jackson and Anna Killick. This features articles such as 'Independence is not Going Away: The Importance of Education and Birth Cohorts' by Lindsay Paterson; 'Diary of an SNP First Minister: A Chronopolitics of Proximity and Priorities' by Hannah Graham; and 'Politics, the Constitution and the Independence Movement in Scotland since Devolution' by Malcolm Petrie. There are a wide range of other articles including 'Unlocking the Pensions Debate: The Origins and Future of the ‘Triple Lock’ by Jonathan Portes and 'The Politics of England: National Identities and Political Englishness' by John Denham and Lawrence Mckay. Finally, there is a selection of book reviews such as Branko Milanovic's review of Equality: The History of an Elusive Idea by Darrin M. McMahon, and Alexandre Leskanich's review of Cannibal Capitalism by Nancy Fraser.

Find out more about the latest issue of the journal