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Professor Ian Gough

London School of Economics: Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE)

Associate, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE

Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, University of Bath

I was born near Hitchin, Hertfordshire in 1942 and went to Hitchin Boys Grammar School. I studied Economics at Cambridge in the early 1960s before neo-classical teaching gained prominence and was inspired by a range of thinkers, notably Professors Kaldor and Meade. I then moved into Social Policy at Manchester University where I remained for a remarkable (in hindsight) 31 years. Social policy attracted me since it combined the study of human wellbeing and state policy interventions.


The mid 60s to the end-70s was creative era. Participating in a group reading all three volumes of Marx’s Capital I determined to apply Marxist political economy to the understanding of social policy in advanced capitalist societies. I participated in the Conference of Socialist Economists and was a founder member of Critical Social Policy in 1981. The result of this activity was The Political Economy of the Welfare State (1979).

My next step was to collaborate with a philosopher friend, Len Doyal, to tackle normative and philosophical questions about the more fundamental ends of social action, politics and social policy. This focused on the nature and claims of meeting human needs and their distinction from human wants and preferences. The result was A Theory of Human Need (1991).

In 1995 I moved to the Chair of Social Policy at the University of Bath and continued these explorations in the Wellbeing in Developing Countries research centre there, directed by Allister McGregor, which resulted in the book of the same name (2007). My parallel attempts to marry the political economy and the human need-wellbeing approaches were brought together in a book of essays, Global Capital, Human Needs and Social Policies (2000).

On retiring from Bath I moved to London and became Visiting Professor at the LSE in 2009. Finally grasping the imminent threat of global warming and environmental limits to all aspects of human wellbeing, I determined to change course again and study climate change, from both moral economy and political economy perspectives. This research included inter alia the social dimensions of climate change, the impacts of inequality and capitalist growth on global warming, how universal human needs can yet be satisfied and how eco-social policy might safeguard sustainable wellbeing. The result was published as Heat, Greed and Human Need: Climate change, capitalism and sustainable wellbeing (2017).

I am now working on the idea and practice of Sufficiency, with the help of a fellowship grant from the Leverhulme Foundation. I have enjoyed collaboration with, and learned so much from, the Living Well within Limits group at Leeds, the Sustainable Welfare States project in Oslo, the Consumption Corridors network in Europe, the ETUI in Brussels, the Social Guarantee campaign, and too many other movements, networks and individuals to mention here.   

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