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.

‘Perhaps we could start with you telling us what you understand by the term “plagiarism”.’ I don’t know how many times I’ve spoken these words over the last two years. Twenty or thirty perhaps. In my role as chair of the exam board in my department it falls to me to chair plagiarism hearings, and this awkward icebreaker serves as a way of establishing...

Short Cuts: Friend or Threat

William Davies, 17 June 2021

The​ slow reopening of the British hospitality sector over the past few weeks signals a re-emergence from the great closures of the last year and a half – hopefully, this time, a permanent re-emergence, though who knows? No economic sector has been hit harder by Covid-19 than hospitality, a category that officially designates hotels, restaurants and pubs, but which bleeds into other...

New-Found Tribes: In Brexitland

William Davies, 4 February 2021

Thereare two types of people: professional social scientists and amateur social scientists. To put that another way, a central problem of social science is that, unlike natural science, your objects of study have their own account of who they are and what they’re doing. The professional demographer may classify someone according to a set of categories widely recognised among experts,...

Short Cuts: Woke Conspiracies

William Davies, 24 September 2020

In July​, BBC Music Magazine carried a column suggesting some punchy ideas for reforming the Proms, given the unique circumstances presented by coronavirus. ‘With massed choirs and a packed flag-waving audience ruled out on medical grounds,’ Richard Morrison wrote, ‘there will never be a better moment to drop that toe-curlingly embarrassing anachronistic farrago of...

The rapid expansion and consolidation of social media platforms led by Facebook has driven the logic of the ‘worm’ into everyday life. In the shadow of the ubiquitous ‘like’ button, however, the alternative to enthusiasm is often – as Schmitt anticipated – ‘silence or complaining’. Photographs, restaurants, research papers, songs, products or opinions are compared on the basis of their relative numbers of ‘likes’. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there is no equivalent of a ‘downvoting’ button (though there is on YouTube). Negative opinion is expressed either through a sheer absence of acclaim, or through outbursts of denunciation, which other users may in turn wish to ‘like’ or share. The radical difference between the infrastructure overseen by Mark Zuckerberg today and the one rolled out by George Gallup in the 1930s is that we can all now potentially act as the pollster. Here’s my dog: like or dislike? Donald Trump is a fascist: agree or disagree?

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

‘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

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