William Davies

William Davies, a sociologist and political economist, teaches at Goldsmiths and has written extensively on subjects such as neoliberalism and the ‘happiness industry’. This Is Not Normal: The Collapse of Liberal Britain includes several of his essays for the LRB.

Stay away from politics: Why Weber?

William Davies, 21 September 2023

Thereare two broad narratives about what has happened to universities in the English-speaking world over the past forty years. They are very different from each other, yet both have some plausibility. The first runs roughly as follows. The rise of the New Right in the 1980s introduced a policy agenda for universities aimed at injecting enterprise and competition into a sector that had...

Pain, No Gain: Inflation Fixation

William Davies, 13 July 2023

Britain​ is entering a crisis in mortgage repayments that nobody can ignore, but which nobody in power seems willing to prevent. In May, the average interest rate for a two-year fixed rate mortgage passed 6 per cent, a reflection of market expectations regarding Bank of England rate rises, which are in turn a response to the sustained difficulty of getting inflation down. Unlike in September...

A Dog in the Fight: Am I a fan?

William Davies, 18 May 2023

Fandom acquired a political and economic utility at a moment in history when passion became required of us both in the workplace and at the shopping mall, and when nations were reimagined as giant corporate brands in a race against one another. What monsters were unleashed in the process?

The Reaction Economy

William Davies, 2 March 2023

The quest for authentic joy or shock – or best of all, joy and shock at the same time – which drives reaction content endows the human face with a communicative magic that words cannot match. It is an infernal riddle of digital culture that ‘authenticity’ is constantly breeding its opposite: the ‘spontaneous’ event that proves to be no such thing, the ‘surprise’ that turns out to be staged, the emotional outburst that has been practised. TikTok is awash with apparently ‘authentic’ clips of humorous reactions (often based on pranks), the comments on which are preoccupied with whether or not the interaction is ‘real’. The human face, the standard for emotional truth, is also the basis for emojis and Facebook ‘reactions’, now an entire system of signification capable of conveying considerable meaning, but one from which the promise of authentic or immediate emotion has been lost. Any culture that lavishes praise on ‘authenticity’ to the extent that ours does will be beset by worries regarding ‘fakery’.

Madman Economics: What the hell is going on?

William Davies, 20 October 2022

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have unleashed something that not even the most careful reader of Britannia Unchained, the book they co-authored in 2012 with other members of the Free Enterprise Group, would have expected. By demonstrating disregard for the judgments of ‘the markets’, before which everyone from Bill Clinton to Rishi Sunak has cowered, they may believe they have demonstrated a degree of autonomy and courage that others have been unable to muster. This is precisely what the mid-20th-century neoliberals feared would happen as nations acquired their sovereignty after decolonisation. Do Truss and Kwarteng believe Britain is a newly decolonised power, now that Boris Johnson has delivered Brexit? Larry Summers’s line, that the UK is behaving like an ‘emerging market turning itself into a submerging market’ seems closer to the mark. The difference between Britain’s new-found sovereign autonomy – if one believes in such a thing – in 2022 and that of the newly independent nation-states of the 1950s and 1960s is that Britain today confronts a global economy shaped by more than forty years of neoliberal reforms. 

Thanks to the work of behavioural economists there is a lot of experimental evidence to show what many of us would have suspected anyway: that people are not the rational, utility-maximisers...

Read more reviews

‘What’s​ on your mind?’ Each day, the 968 million people who log in to Facebook are asked to share their thoughts with its giant data bank. A dropdown menu of smilies invites...

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences