Professor Ian Gough

Professor Ian Gough

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Visiting Professor, 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

Office: 32L 3.28 B, STICERD
Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 7429
Fax: +44 (0)20 7955 6951

I am a Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) and an Associate at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (GRI), both at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Until summer 2009 I was Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath, where I am now Professor Emeritus.

Current Research

I am currently researching climate change and social policy, initially funded by the ESRC, with further research assistance from the Grantham Institute.

My medium-term goal is to complete a book on Climate Change and Sustainable Welfare. To this end I have been researching wide range of discrete issues at the interface of climate change, wellbeing and social policy, including:

1. The distribution of emissions between households in the UK, and the role of income and other drivers;

2. The ability of alternative social policies to deal with the distributional dilemmas of carbon mitigation;

3. An argument for the centrality of human needs in understanding sustainable wellbeing;

4. A comparison of the global governance of social policy and climate change policy;

5. The political economy of prevention (which I see as relevant to the future linkage of environmental and social policies);

6. The linkage between ‘welfare states’ and ‘environmental states’ in a comparative context.

My current research is concerned with identifying and distinguishing ‘necessary’ from ‘surplus’ emissions, both at a global level and within the UK. This would then provide a basis for linking sustainability and justice arguments in allocating responsibility for mitigating anthropogenic climate change and financing adaptation and losses/damages.

Recent Publications

Climate Change and Sustainable Welfare: an argument for the centrality of human needs

(2014) Working Paper, Presented at Grantham Research Institute Discussion Group, London School of Economics and Political Science, 19 June 2014.

Since climate change threatens human wellbeing across the globe and into the future, we require a concept of wellbeing that encompasses an equivalent ambit. This paper argues that only a concept of human need can do the work required. It compares need theory with three alternative approaches. Preference satisfaction theory is criticised on the grounds of subjectivity, epistemic irrationality, endogenous and adaptive preferences, the limitlessness of wants, the absence of moral evaluation, and the non-specificity of future preferences. The happiness approach is found equally wanting. The main section shows how these deficiencies can be addressed by a coherent theory of need. Human needs are necessary preconditions to avoid serious harm, are universalisable, objective, empirically grounded, non-substitutable and satiable. They are broader than ‘material’ needs since a need for personal autonomy figures in all theoretical accounts. While needs are universal, need satisfiers are most often contextual and relative to institutions and cultures. The satiability and non-substitutability of needs is critical for understanding sustainability. This approach is compared the capability approaches of Sen and Nussbaum but is argued to be more fundamental. Finally, human needs provide the only concept that can ground moral obligations across global space and intergenerational time.

Find a copy of the paper here, or as a working paper for the New Economics Foundation here.

Welfare States and Environmental States: a framework for comparative analysis

(2014 - forthcoming, has been submitted to journal)

This paper investigates the commonalities and contrasts between the earlier development of welfare states and the recent emergence of ‘environmental states’, focusing on their climate mitigation activities. Five drivers of welfare state development are identified: the ‘five I’s’ of Industrialisation, Interests, Institutions, Ideas/Ideologies, and International Influences, summarised in the first part. These factors are then applied to the recent expansion of the environmental interventions of states, and available comparative research is trawled to assess their respective importance. The provisional conclusion at this stage is that the drivers of both state functions have been similar, and that coordinated market economies and social democratic welfare states have pioneered such climate mitigation policies as presently exist. The third section of the paper compares these two policy domains and speculates on their future interactions. It sets out some of the important drivers likely to influence the future development of states’ social and environmental functions and then sketches two potential configurations of the two. A scenario of integrated social and environmental investment is adumbrated and some preconditions for this to emerge are discussed. The paper calls for more collaborative work between students of welfare and environmental policies.

Find a copy of the paper here.

Lists and Thresholds: Comparing the Doyal-Gough Theory of Human Need with Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach 

(2014) in Comim, F. and Nussbaum, M. Capabilities, Gender, Equality: Towards Fundamental Entitlements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.    

Find a copy of the chapter here.

Climate Change, Social Policy, and Global Governance

(2013) Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 29(3), pp. 185-203.

This paper considers the challenge to global social policy posed by global climate change. It sets side by side global social policies and global climate change policies, and surveys the governance of each. The first part summarises global social policy in recent years, distinguishing (1) the policies and practices pursued in the global arena, and (2) the structures of global governance and the role of significant global actors. The second part repeats this at a greater length for global climate change. The third part then considers the relationship between these two sets of policies/practices and governance structures, in particular the potential conflicts between the pursuit of social justice and environmental sustainability. It identifies two possible responses – compensation and co-benefits – and maps these onto current global actors, before concluding with a radical vision of eco-social policy.

Find a copy of the paper here.

This paper also features in Kaasch, A. and Stubbs, P. (eds.) (2014) Transformations in Global and Regional Social Policies. Palgrave Macmillan. A copy of this chapter can be found here.

The Political Economy of Prevention

(2013) British Journal of Political Science, available on CJO 2013 doi:10.1017/S0007123413000434

Prevention in public policy is much discussed but rarely theorized. This article begins with a theoretical framework for reflecting on the political economy of prevention in advanced capitalist economies that integrates the analysis of preventive policies across the social, environmental and economic domains. The next two sections survey prevention initiatives in social policy and climate change policy, respectively. These mainly focus on the last three decades and are based mainly on UK evidence. The article then considers the relative absence of prevention in contemporary economic policy and management: today's neo-liberal economic and political order powerfully constrains preventive public policy. The final section outlines an alternative social political economy that prioritizes preventive and precautionary policy making.

Find a copy of the paper here or at the journal's website here.

This paper is based on earlier work completed for the New Economics Foundation's Prevention Papers and can be found here.

Carbon Mitigation Policies, Distributional Dilemmas and Social Policies

(2013) Journal of Social Policy, 42(2), pp. 191-213.

Contemporary policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) will have distributive consequences and thus implications for the scope and remit of social policy. This paper studies current carbon mitigation policies and their distributive impacts. It considers a range of current and proposed social programmes to ameliorate these impacts, before proposing alternatives. This argument is pursued in two parts according to whether emissions are conceived and accounted within a production or a consumption framework. The first part works within the Kyoto policy framework, critiques the present suite of policies and suggests alternative policy scenarios that may better marry together the goals of carbon reduction and social equity. The second half justifies and operationalises a broader focus on all GHGs emitted by British consumers, whether directly or embodied in goods and services. It argues that to target these will require going beyond the current policy paradigm to develop more radical policies to modify preferences and behaviour, and to constrain total consumption demand. It then speculates on ways that new social policy programmes might combine the pursuit of these goals together with social equity.

Find a copy of the paper here or at the journal's website here.

Recent Lectures

The Challenge of Climate Change for Social Policy 

Plenary lecture delivered at the Social Policy Association annual conference at Sheffield University, July 10 2013.

A copy of this presentation can be found here.

The Global Future of Social Policy

Opening lecture of the International Seminar on Social Protection and Citizenship Today at Fluminense Federal University, Niteroi, Rio de Janiero, 27 November 2012.

A copy of this presentation can be found here



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