UCL Uncovering Politics

The Precautionary State

Episode Summary

This week we’re looking at a new way of thinking about the role of the state in our society: the idea of the ‘precautionary state’. What is it? What are its implications? And is it a good thing?

Episode Notes

At a time of breakdown in our public health service, unaffordable childcare bills, and a cost of living crisis, questions over how our society should be governed, and what the state should provide, are pressing. 

Meanwhile, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic  and the vulnerabilities in the energy and food supply chains exposed by the war in Ukraine reveal, some think, state failure to plan ahead and make provision, just in case. 

One person who has thought long and hard about what functions the state should exercise, and how it ought to perform them, is Albert Weale, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy here in the UCL Department of Political Science. Longstanding listeners to UCL Uncovering Politics may remember an episode we did with him a couple of years ago on his major book Modern Social Contract Theory, which explored the principles that should guide decisions on the role of the state. 

Albert is now building on that foundation to develop a new approach to thinking about the role of the state, which he calls the ‘precautionary state’ – one that moves from ‘just in time’ systems, to a ‘just in case’ approach, with ample provision of public goods.

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