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  • Cited by 45
  • Thomas Marois, SOAS University of London & UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2021
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

Public banks are banks located within the public sphere of a state. They are pervasive, with more than 900 institutions worldwide, and powerful, with tens of trillions in assets. Public banks are neither essentially good nor bad. Rather, they are dynamic institutions, made and remade by contentious social forces. As the first single-authored book on public banks, this timely intervention examines how these institutions can confront the crisis of climate finance and catalyse a green and just transition. The author explores six case studies across the globe, demonstrating that public banks have acquired the representative structures, financial capacity, institutional knowledge, collaborative networks, and geographical reach to tackle decarbonisation, definancialisation, and democratisation. These institutions are not without contradictions, torn as they are between contending public and private interests in class-divided society. Ultimately, social forces and struggles shape how and if public banks serve the public good.


Winner, 2023 Joan Robinson Prize, European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy


‘The Great Financial Crisis of 2007–2009 and the near financial meltdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it vividly clear that our current financial system is woefully inadequate to address the massive problems we face. Thomas Marois has written a masterful book that convincingly argues that a major expansion in the role of public banks can provide long term, well-directed finance to speak to these major challenges. This is the definitive work on public banking that will be of enormous interest to practitioners, policy makers, economists, and others who are tired of just complaining about the failures of finance and who actually want to do something about it.’

Gerald Epstein - Professor and Co-Director PERI, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

‘Writing on public banks has tended to fall into one of two camps - they are either seen as neo-Keynesian saviors capable of stabilizing capitalism in an increasingly speculative world, or as inefficient and nepotistic institutions that crowd out private finance. Thomas Marois’ book offers a refreshingly new and groundbreaking perspective that envisions public banks as dynamic institutions shaped by their social, economic, and political context. The book asks how public banks can be made more democratic and accountable to those they are intended to serve, showcasing positive and negative examples. It is essential reading for those interested in how we can finance a more progressive, green, and just public future.’

David A. McDonald - Queen’s University, Canada

‘The resurgence of public banking has potential to provide much-needed finance to address the challenges of pandemics, climate change, and global economic stagnation - but staying within a neoliberal financialized paradigm will not achieve this. Here’s a timely and important study with a dynamic approach that recognizes public banks as both powerful and contested, and provides case studies and ideas for how public banks can truly serve the public interest.’

Jayati Ghosh - Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

‘The most detailed treatment of public banks in the political economy literature. An engaging narrative traverses the histories and track records of public banks across six different country case studies from the global north and south. This critical intervention forces us to rethink some of the key challenges of our age: financialization, negative economic externalities, emergencies (including COVID-19), the democratization of finance and society, and - most importantly - a green and just transition. Marois has given us an indispensable book for our times.’

Alfredo Saad-Filho - King's College London

‘In recent years, there has been ever increasing energy and activism in many parts of the world around public banking, both as an alternative to the increased concentration and power of large financial corporations and as a way to address the many pressing social and ecological challenges our societies now face. Providing a deep and nuanced analysis of public banks as contested, dynamic, and critical institutions, Thomas Marois’ new book is a masterful contribution to these efforts and incredibly timely given the current economic crisis gripping much of the world and the looming existential threat of climate change.’

Thomas M. Hanna - Research Director at The Democracy Collaborative, and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States

‘Against the background of stratospheric inequality and continuing ecological devastation, not to mention the enormous setback to human progress represented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas Marois has produced a timely and hugely important contribution that explains how public banks can play a central role in steering us out of these multiple crises. Marois offers a compelling analysis built upon solid economics and historical perspective, underpinned by a deep concern for advancing social justice. As the enormously destructive era of global and local neoliberalism is finally coming to an end, this book will play an important role in bringing the public banking concept back in from the cold.’

Milford Bateman - Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, Croatia and St Mary’s University, Canada

‘This is a thoroughly researched book: It makes a strong case for financial institutions in the public interest, aimed to advance societal goals and to respond to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. It is certainly a welcome invitation for civil society organisations and scholars from North and South to engage in a debate to reclaim public finance, towards realising institutions that serve society and protect the planet.’

María José Romero - Policy and Advocacy Manager, the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), Brussels

‘This book reconsiders public banks as agents of sustainable development and social inclusion. For decades, public banks were perceived as antiques responsible for financial repression. Marois traces the resurgence of state banking and challenges scholars, activists, and public officials to realize the potential of these often immense financial institutions to reverse the forces of climate change, inequality, and social exclusion. He illuminates the single most important dimension and greatest opportunity for green development and social inclusion of our time.’

Kurt Mettenheim - FGV-EAESP, Brazil

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