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    Alternative Policy Perspectives

    Timothy Besley
    Irene Bucelli
    London School of Economics

    August 2022


    978-1-909890-82-4 (print)

    978-1-909890-81-7 (PDF)

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.well


    Governments in liberal democracies pursue social welfare, but in many different ways. The wellbeing approach instead asks: why not focus directly on increasing measured human happiness? Why not try to improve people’s overall quality of life, as it is subjectively seen by citizens themselves?

    The radical implications of this stance include shifting attention to previously neglected areas (such as mental health and ‘social infrastructure’ services) and developing defensible measures of overall wellbeing or quality of life indicators. Can one ‘master’ concept of wellbeing work to create more holistic policy-making? Or should we stick with multiple metrics? These debates are well-developed in health policy-making and in alternative ‘capabilities’ approaches to assessing quality of life. Most recently, the connections between wellbeing and political participation have come into sharper focus.

    Wellbeing remains a contested concept, one that can be interpreted and used differently, with consequences for how it is incorporated into policy decisions. By bringing together scholars from economics, psychology and behavioural science, philosophy and political science, the authors and editors of this short volume explore how different disciplinary approaches can contribute to the study of wellbeing and how this can shape policy priorities.

    About the editors

    Timothy Besley is School Professor of Economics of Political Science and W. Arthur Lewis Professor of Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the London School of Economics. He is also a member of the National Infrastructure Commission and, for 2018, is President of the Econometric Society. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and British Academy. He is also a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Economic Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Irene Bucelli is a Research Officer at the LSE School of Public Policy and programme coordinator for the Beveridge 2.0: Redefining the Social Contract. She is also a Research Officer at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (LSE) where her research focuses on multidimensional inequality, poverty and deprivation.


    Origins and Alternative Policy Responses

    Andrés Velasco
    Irene Bucelli
    London School of Economics

    August 2022


    978-1-909890-93-0 (print)

    978-1-909890-92-3 (PDF)

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.pop


    Populist movements, parties and leaders have gained influence in many countries, disrupting long-established patterns of party competition, impugning the legitimacy of representative institutions and sometimes actively weakening or coarsening government capabilities. By positing an acute contrast between the will of the people and established elites, and advocating simplistic policy solutions careless of minority rights, populists have challenged the development and even the maintenance of liberal democracy on many fronts.

    Social scientists’ attention to populism has grown rapidly, although it remains somewhat fragmented across disciplines. Many questions remain. Are populism’s causes economic or cultural? National or local? Is populism a threat to liberal democracy? If so, what kind of threat? And what can be done about it? Employing a range of conceptual toolkits and methods, this interdisciplinary book addresses in a critical and evidence-based way the most common diagnoses of populism’s causes, consequences and policy antidotes.

    About the editors

    Andrés Velasco is Professor of Public Policy and Dean of the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics. He is also a Research Fellow of CEPR and an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Earlier he held professorial roles at the Harvard Kennedy School, Columbia University and New York University. He served as the Minister of Finance of Chile between 2006 and 2010. In 201718 he was a member of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.

    Irene Bucelli is a Research Officer at the LSE School of Public Policy and programme coordinator for the Beveridge 2.0: Redefining the Social Contract. She is also a Research Officer at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (LSE) where her research focuses on multidimensional inequality, poverty and deprivation.

    Pension Policy and Governmentality in China

    Manufacturing public compliance

    Yan Wang
    London School of Economics



    978-1-909890-88-6 (print)

    978-1-909890-89-3 (PDF)

    978-1-909890-90-9 (epub)

    978-1-909890-91-6 (Mobi)

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.ppc 


    Rapid economic growth is often disruptive. It can threaten social relations and undermine the ideologies of incumbent regimes. However, the Chinese Communist Party has successfully led a major social and economic transformation over forty years, without yet encountering fundamental challenges to subvert its rule. How the Chinese government has done this is a crucial question for political sociology. The logics of China’s governmentality have succeeded in manufacturing compliance from the governed while acting radically to advance the state’s priorities for growth.

    In Pension Policy and Governmentality in China, Yan Wang analyses the detailed trajectories, rationale, and effects of China’s pension reforms. Using multiple methods, including institutional analysis of resource allocation in the pension schemes and quantitative text analysis of knowledge construction in official discourse, the book estimates the effects of key policy instruments on public opinion about pension responsibility and political trust. An analysis of qualitative evidence illuminates why ‘falsified compliance’ might exist in China’s society and the mechanisms that may lie behind it.

    The Chinese state’s strategy to generate public compliance is hybrid, organic, and dynamic. The state rules society by its customised governance design and constant adjustments. Public compliance is not only acquired through ‘buying off’ the public with governmental performance and targeted allocation of benefits, but is also manufactured through achieving cultural changes and new ideological foundations for general legitimation. Policy experimentation, propaganda, and knowledge construction are all used to shape public expectations and to justify state rule.

    An original contribution to the study of legitimation in modern states, this book demonstrates how, when active counter-conduct is confined, individuals may choose cognitive rebellion and falsify their public compliance.

    About the author

    Yan Wang is a Research Fellow at LSE's School of Public Policy, having previously been an LSE Fellow in the Department of Methodology. Her research seeks to understand the issues of state legitimacy, public opinion, and the redistribution of public goods. She is especially interested in how actors’ agency shapes authoritarian governmentality and the realisation of public’s social rights, and how and why public opinion changes during the state-society interactions. She is also interested in welfare equalisation in a comparative perspective, and state governance in general. Yan has won several research grants, including Research Infrastructure and Investment Fund (RIIF) from the Department of Methodology, LSE, and British Academy Small Grant as Co-PI. Her recent publications include articles in the Journal of Chinese Political Science.

    Decentralised Governance

    Crafting Effective Democracies Around the World

    Jean-Paul Faguet
    London School of Economics
    Sarmistha Pal 
    University of Surrey



    978-1-909890-84-8 (print)

    978-1-909890-85-5 (PDF)

    978-1-909890-86-2 (epub)

    978-1-909890-87-9 (Mobi)

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.dlg


    In the political economy of development, a broad consensus now recognises that (under the right conditions) decentralisation to devolve political and/or fiscal powers from the central state to local governments improves public policy outcomes. Assigning power to locally responsible leaders creates better government, more effective public services and faster local economic growth. Of course, caveats are required – under the wrong conditions, decentralised governments can be captured by elites or undermined by the clientelistic distribution of public resources. But for decades, what the relevant right or wrong conditions are, and where they hold, has been poorly understood.

    In recent years, a new generation of research studies has shown far more precisely how decentralisation can improve public sector efficiency by restructuring government to empower people. This book brings together studies blending theoretical insights and nuances with innovative empirical methods and analysis. It provides fresh evidence from around the world (including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Ghana, Kenya and Colombia) of the pros and cons of decentralisation under both democratic and autocratic regimes, and how reform operates differently in each. It analyses how decentralisation can cut entry barriers for local political leaders and generate rising political contestation, leading to more political turnover. In turn, a higher quality of candidates for public office generates quantifiable improvements in government outputs and faster urban and regional development. Improving the norms governing local public service delivery, parliamentary sanctions, and public transparency and monitoring all yield benefits, as do complementary reforms such as birth registration cards and citizen-based data systems.

    About the editors

    Jean-Paul Faguet is Professor of Political Economy of Development, Department of International Development, London school of Economics. He is the Co-Programme Director of the MSc in Development Management. He is also Chair of the Decentralization Task Force at Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue. He works at the frontier between economics and political science, using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the institutions and organisational forms that underpin development transformations. He has published in the economics, political science, and development literatures, including Is Decentralization Good for Development? Perspectives from Academics and Policymakers (Oxford, 2015), and Governance from Below: Decentralization and Popular Democracy in Bolivia (Michigan), which won the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best political science book of 2012.

    Sarmistha Pal is currently a Professor of Financial Economics at the University of Surrey. She was a Leverhulme Research Fellow in the UK and is currently a research fellow of IZA (Germany) and an academic member of the European Corporate Governance Institute. She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Development Studies. Her research focuses on issues relating to public finance and public policy, institutions and political economy primarily in emerging economies.

    Autumn 2022

    If You're So Ethical, Why Are You So Highly Paid? Ethics, Inequality and Executive Pay
    Alexander Pepper

    Afghanistan: Long War, Forgotten Peace
    Mick Cox and Irene Bucelli (eds.)


    Spectrum Auctions: Designing markets to benefit citizens, taxpayers, industry and the economy

    Geoffrey Myers

    Varieties of Government Failure
    Gwyn Bevan