Piketty's Capital was undoubtedly the book of the year for anybody interested in public policy. But next year, the doyen of British economists, and the man Piketty himself declared to be his 'model', Sir Tony Atkinson, will publish a new book on inequality, from the same Harvard University Press stable. It will doubtless add significantly to the literature. Atkinson's empirical studies of the evolution of inequality in the 20th century (and much else) were pathbreaking; this book turns attention to the policies that might reduce inequality and its dysfunctions.
Two other significant books on the travails of western capitalism published this year were Martin Wolf's The Shifts and the Shocksand German political economist Wolfgang Streeck's Buying Time, which sets our contemporary debt-laden economies into the long sweep of postwar class compromise and conflict. Both spoke at IPPR this autumn, and you can listen to a podcast of our interview with Wolfgang Streeck online now.
Heteredox economic thinking is also increasingly making its way into mainstream discourse, particularly from writers engaged with debates on financialisation, credit creation and banking. Ann Pettifor's Just Money is a great way into this literature, as is Stephanie Kelton's work.
Staying with the German theme, I have Axel Honneth's democratic theory of justice, Freedom's Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life, on my reading list for the New Year. A leading neo-Hegelian political philosopher, Honneth is probably best known in the UK for his theories of recognition and the social bases of claims to justice, which help illuminate much of our contemporary landscape. Polity is publishing a new biography by Reinhard Mehring of the infamous and influential German philosopher Carl Schmitt, whose work has experienced a major revival in the last couple of decades. Schmitt is the arch-theorist of politics as conflict and the assertion of power; his private life was apparently as tumultuous as his professional one.
I spent part of the summer in Cork, where I read two books by the historian Charles Townshend: his closely written study, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, and The Republic: the Fight for Irish Independence, which chronicles the military struggle against British rule and the civil war that followed. Cork is a city replete with statues honouring the heroes of that generation, including its most famous son, Michael Collins, and Townshend's books are brilliant companions to time spent there. I also have the revisionist historian Roy Foster's new book to read over Christmas. Vivid Faces is a 'group portrait' of the men and women of that momentous era, drawing its title from Yeats' poem 'Easter 1916'. Foster is a superb historian who writes beautifully.
I have found Patrick Coburn's writing in the Independent and the London Review of Books easily the best guide to the brutalities of the contemporary Middle East in recent years. He has a new book coming out shortly, The Rise of the Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. We hope to host him at IPPR to talk about it.
For those interested in architecture, I recommend Architecture and the Welfare State, by Mark Swenarton, Tom Avermaete and Dirk van den Heuvel, a pan-European study of the role of architecture and the built environment in the post-war construction of the welfare state. I am also currently (very slowly) reading Detlef Mertins' massive and magisterial Mies. It takes you through almost all the major intellectual currents in 20th century architecture to situate the auto-didact Mies Van de Rohe in his shifting times.
We have been getting more interested at IPPR in automation and the role of robots in our economy. I came across this book by Diane Ackerman, taking a sweeping look at our anthropocene age, which I hope to read soon.
Finally, as you ponder a New Year wellness regime, and strap on your new fitbit, I recommend a blast against huckster happiness governmentality, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well Being, by Will Davies of the new Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths University, formerly of this parish.
Snakes and ladders: Tackling precarity in social security and employment supportAcross the country, people are trying to make ends meet, build financial security and pursue their aspirations. But, in a vicious cycle of snakes and ladders, many are being pulled down into poverty.
Making markets: The City's role in industrial strategyTo tackle climate change, we need a significant increase in public and private capital investment.
Broken hearted: A spotlight paper on cardiovascular diseaseProgress on cardiovascular disease was a significant driver of better health and prosperity in the latter half of the 20th century, however progress has recently stalled – with indications it may be in reverse.