Past events: materials


Dimensions of Justice: Income, Wealth and Power. An Oxford Public Policy Unit Seminar Series

18 May 2012. Kate Bell (Joseph Rowntree) and Declan Gaffney, ‘Making a Contribution: Social Security for the Future’.


11 May 2012. Fran Bennett (Oxford), 'Universal Credit: Overview and Gender Implications'.



'Rethinking the State from First Principles: An Oxford Public Policy Unit Seminar Series'

Debate over the size and structure of the state is once again central to political debate in the UK. The Coalition government argues that deep cuts in public spending are necessary to close the budget deficit. The state, it claims, grew ‘too big’ under Labour. Its ideas for a ‘Big Society’ and a new ‘localism’ are meant to convey a commitment to a new set of relationships between the state and civil society, and between central and local government. Critics argue that the cuts to public spending represent an ideologically-motivated attack on the welfare state, and that the ideas of the ‘Big Society’ and ‘localism’ are merely devices to deflect blame away from central government for the pain of the cuts. But thinkers on the left are not necessarily uncritical of the state. Within Labour, there is a renewal of interest in ideas of ‘mutualism’ and in the co-operative tradition. Others have argued for a socialist politics that ‘reclaims the state’ for popular control even as it defends the state against cuts. And across the political spectrum, critics continue to voice worries about what they perceive as the erosion of civil liberties and about the alleged incapacity of Westminster politics to be truly representative.
Against the background of this emerging and wide-ranging debate about the state, the Public Policy Unit at Oxford University proposes to hold a series of seminar events on the theme of ‘Rethinking the State from First Principles’. The seminars aim to dig down beneath the immediate political fray to explore key underlying questions of principle. Our goal is to focus directly on fundamental questions about what the state is for and how it ought to be structured to do what it is for. However, we propose to get at these questions by exploring them in connection with real-world policy concerns.  

First Seminar, February 18, 2011, Manor Road Building, Oxford:





'Associative democracy revisited: exploring wider forms of economic, social and political governance'

The Public Policy Unit has collaborated with a range of other organizations to produce a new e-book, Revisiting Associative Democracy. Edited by Andrea Westall, the e-book is free to download at

The e-book takes as its focus the work of the political theorist, Paul Hirst, who argued for an associative democracy based on: greater democracy and localism in the UK state; a devolution of welfare provision to civil society associations but with the state retaining its role as chief financer of provision; and greater mutuality, co-operativism and industrial democracy in the economy.

Contributors include Anthony Barnett, Rosemary Bechler, Ian Christie, Maurice Glasman, Su Maddock, Samantha Mauger, Jonathan Michie, Graham Smith, Penny Shepherd, Andrea Westall, and Stuart White. They discuss Hirst's ideas and use the discussion to engage critically with today's debates over the so-called 'Big Society', 'mutualism' and the role of the state.

The book is based on a conference on associative democracy supported by the Public Policy Unit,, the JRSST Charitable Trust, and Coin St Community Builders. A transcript of the conference is also available for download.


Trinity Term 2008 PPU seminar series: Towards a Deeper Democracy

Friday, 25 April 2008

Emma Chamberlain and Carl Emmerson, Institute for Fiscal Studies: Taxing Gifts and Inheritances: Options for Reform.

Available materials: seminar presentation pdf file pdf

Friday, 9 May 2008

Martin Powell, Health Services Management Centre, Birmingham University: A Welfare State without Citizens?

Available materials: seminar presentation pdf file pdf

Friday, 16 May 2008

Catherine Needham, Department of Politics, Queen Mary, University of London: Democracy on the Frontlines? Coproductive Approaches to Reforming Public Services.

Available materials: seminar presentation pdf file pdf

Friday, 6 June 2008

Graham Smith, Department of Politics, University of Southampton: Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation

Available materials: seminar presentation pdf file pdf

Cui Zhiyuan on Property for All

Wednesday, 07 May 2008: Professor Cui Zhiyuan, Tsinghua University, and Visiting Professor, Cornell Law School, Cornell University: Property for All: Progressive Market Economics in China (and the UK)

Available materials: presentation pdf file pdf

Stuart White on Asset-based Welfare in Ireland

Stuart White talked at a seminar organised by The Policy Institute, Trinity College, Dublin, and the Combat Poverty Agency on 'What's the Point of (Something Like) the Child Trust Fund?'.

Available materials: seminar presentation pdf file pdf

PPU/CentreForum seminar: Asset-based welfare? An instrument for Liberal goals?

Speakers were Rajiv Prabhakar (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Stuart White (PPU) and Danny Alexander MP, Lib Dem spokesperson for Work and Pensions.

Available materials: seminar presentation; seminar discussion pdf file pdf


PPU Launch Seminar: Geoff Mulgan (The Young Foundation)

The PPU was launched at a seminar in November 2005. Geoff Mulgan (The Young Foundation) spoke on The Academic and the Policy-maker.

Available materials: seminar transcript pdf file pdf