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After the Virus
Lessons from the Past for a Better Future


  • Date Published: September 2021
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781009005203

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About the Authors
  • Why was the UK so unprepared for the pandemic, suffering one of the highest death rates and worst economic contractions of the major world economies in 2020? Hilary Cooper and Simon Szreter reveal the deep roots of our vulnerability and set out a powerful manifesto for change post-Covid-19. They argue that our commitment to a flawed neoliberal model and the associated disinvestment in our social fabric left the UK dangerously exposed and unable to mount an effective response. This is not at all what made Britain great. The long history of the highly innovative universal welfare system established by Elizabeth I facilitated both the industrial revolution and, when revived after 1945, the postwar Golden Age of rising prosperity. Only by learning from that past can we create the fairer, nurturing and empowering society necessary to tackle the global challenges that lie ahead - climate change, biodiversity collapse and global inequality.

    • Reveals why the UK was so lacking in resilience after decades of neoliberal economics that it was unable to respond effectively to the pandemic
    • Argues that Britain's history, going right back to the reign of Elizabeth I, demonstrates that welfare spending has always been a vital stimulus for, not a burden on, economic growth
    • Presents readers with practical proposals, inspired by our own history, which provide a blueprint for building an empowering society that will enable us to tackle the bigger challenges that are coming after COVID-19
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… original and compelling.' Will Hutton, The Observer

    '… (a) wonderfully readable and historically informed account.' Michael Marmot, The Lancet

    'A critically important assessment of the current state of governance of healthcare and the economy in the UK - uniquely placed in historical context. The disastrous mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic provides an ideal launch-pad for this critique, which also demonstrates a clear path to a better future. It should be in the hands of everyone in the country who cares about and has responsibility for our future.' Sir David King, former UK Chief Scientific Adviser and Climate Envoy, Chair of Independent SAGE

    'What lessons does the past hold for shaping a better post-pandemic future? This book, with its powerful account of the intolerable inequalities of the present, argues for a revival of the moral foundations of the successful social contracts of earlier periods of British history.' Diane Coyle, author of Markets, State and People: Economics for Public Policy

    'It is quite a feat to trace the vagaries of English social history from the Elizabethan Poor Law, through mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the seven pillars of what a good society should look like. But these wonderfully accessible authors have done it. Bravo.' Sir Michael Marmot, author of Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review

    'Impressive analysis of how 40 years of neoliberalism severely increased inequalities and the impact of the pandemic, and how a secure, mutually supportive society with a strong economy can be restored. Let's hope our government finds it inspiring and acts accordingly.' Pat Thane, author of Divided Kingdom. A History of Britain, 1900 to the Present

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781009005203
    • length: 444 pages
    • dimensions: 198 x 130 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. COVID-19 was always a matter of 'when' not 'if'
    1. The extraordinary history of pandemic control
    1.1 An ever-present threat
    1.2 The myth of progress
    1.3 How pandemics spread
    1.4 Pandemics and the changing role of the state: from divine to human responsibility
    1.5 A plague on all our houses – learning to control pandemics
    2. Pandemics are not random 'Black Swans'
    2.1 We were expecting a pandemic, so why was the UK so unprepared?
    2.2 Your money or your life
    2.3 Light at the end of the tunnel
    Part II. Why COVID-19 was a perfect storm
    3. The fragile society of a neoliberal state
    3.1 The neoliberal project
    3.2 The capture of democracy
    3.3 How COVID-19 was able to wreak havoc
    3.4 A 'Just in time' health service
    3.5 A 'Cinderella' social care service
    3.6 A diminished state
    4. Inequality saps resilience
    4.1 Inequality and the laissez faire state
    4.2 'This is not an easy life any more, chum'
    4.3 Are we bothered?
    4.4 It's the economy stupid
    4.5 The 'Burning Injustices'
    5. The pandemic onslaught
    5.1 Those who lived and those who died
    5.2 The tattered safety net
    5.3 The COVID generation
    5.4 Where's next?
    5.5 Looking to the future
    Part III. COVID-19 and the choices we now face
    6. 'Too big to fail?' – we need a payback this time
    6.1 Lessons from the 2007–08 financial crash
    6.2 What does all this have to do with a 2020 pandemic?
    6.3 A first look at the winners and losers
    6.4 Securing the pandemic payback – how are things looking this time?
    6.5 Is the old order beginning to crack?
    7. No time for austerity now
    7.1 So we found the magic money tree
    7.2 When austerity was in vogue
    7.3 Let's just put it on the tab
    7.4 Storm clouds ahead?
    8. Who has the deepest pockets?
    8.1 A better future and a proactive state
    8.2 Will we find the pot of gold?
    9. Re-thinking welfare
    9.1 Is it time for a no-strings attached Universal Basic Income?
    9.2 'Dignity and Security'
    9.3 Universal services
    9.4 Who cares?
    9.5 What of later life?
    Part IV. After the virus – Who do we want to be?
    10. Casting aside the neoliberal state
    10.1 Homo Economicus and the myth of rationality
    10.2 History and Morality
    11. The birth of a collectivist individualism
    11.1 How Elizabeth I gave us the world's first welfare society
    11.2 The turn away from collectivist individualism after 1834
    11.3 The Boer War and the 'New Liberal' reforms
    11.4 Slaying the giants – Beveridge and the 'Golden Age'
    11.5 Wealth, redistribution and progressive taxation
    11.6 What lessons can we take from history?
    12. An empowering state to build a nurturing society
    12.1 What does it mean to have an empowering state?
    12.2 Freedom and the state
    12.3 Collective commitment to a nurturing society
    12.4 The case for fair and progressive contributions
    12.5 Democratic participation and devolved power
    12.6 Our natural environment and the empowering state
    13. Seven Pillars of Empowerment
    13.1 A Nurturing Society: Respect and inclusive support for all
    13.2 Ethical Capitalism: Working with business to redefine our values
    13.3 Fair Contributions: Full participation by the prosperous
    13.4 Open Public Discourse: Enabling all voices to have an equal hearing
    13.5 Measuring what we value: Signalling the changes we need
    13.6 A Sustainable Future: Responsible stewardship of our planet's resources
    13.7 Participatory Politics: Reviving democracy and civic engagement
    14. Greater even than a pandemic
    14.1 Conclusion.

  • Authors

    Hilary Cooper
    Hilary Cooper is a former government economist and senior policy maker with expertise in labour markets, children's services and local development. Her current freelance work examines the challenges of ageing. She was the joint winner of the 2019 IPPR Economics prize for the essay Incentivising an Ethical Economics, with Simon Szreter and Ben Szreter.

    Simon Szreter, University of Cambridge
    Simon Szreter is Professor of History and Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, researching economic, social and public health history. His publications include Health and Wealth, which won the American Public Health Association's Viseltear Prize, and Sex before the Sexual Revolution, longlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize. He is co-founder and editor of History & Policy.

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