One of the world's most influential economists sets out the basis for a new social contract fit for the 21st century.
The social contract shapes everything: our political institutions, legal systems and material conditions, but also the organisation of family and community, our well-being, relationships and life prospects. And yet everywhere, the social contract is failing.
Accelerating changes in technology, demography and climate will reshape our world in ways many of us have yet to grasp. In this landmark study, Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, draws on evidence from across the globe to identify the key principles every society must adopt if it is to meet the challenges of the coming century, with profound implications for gender equality, education, healthcare provision, the role of business and the future of work.
How should society pool risks, share resources and balance individual with collective responsibility? Brilliantly lucid and accessible, What We Owe Each Other offers new answers to these age-old questions and equips every reader to understand and play their part in the urgent and necessary transformation ahead.
Nemat (Minouche) Shafik is the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Born in Egypt, she emigrated as a child to the USA, later moving to the UK for post-graduate studies in economics. At 36, she became the youngest-ever Vice President of the World Bank and has since held positions as Permanent Secretary of the UK's Department for International Development, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. In these roles, she has worked on major policy upheavals across the globe, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Arab Spring, to the financial crash in 2008 and the Eurozone crisis. Following her appointment as Director of the LSE in 2017, she launched a programme of research, 'Beveridge 2.0', to rethink the welfare state for the 21st century. She was made a Dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2015 and in 2020 was appointed a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords.
– Longlisted for the 2021 FT / McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
– A Prospect Magazine Best Book of 2021
"A persuasive diagnosis of the present social malaise [with] plenty of suggestions about what policymakers could do [...] ranges widely [...] impressive"
– Diane Coyle, Financial Times
"A big argument, eloquently written [...] eye-catching individual ideas [...] entertaining tales [...] courageously breaks from the orthodoxies of the pre-crash years"
"Shafik is an insider, turned radical [...] In this intelligent and lucid book, she calls for a new social contract based on three principles: security for all; investment in capability; and efficient and fair sharing of risks"
– Martin Wolf, Financial Times
"A very thoughtful book"
– Robert Peston, Daily Telegraph
"Wonderfully illuminating of our interdependence"
– Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"What We Owe Each Other examines the role of the social contract and considers how changes in the global economy have undermined the function of the institutions societies rely on to keep the world a reasonably just place [...] Shafik reckons that [...] if the social contract breaks down, and people do not adequately look after each other, then crises (of finance, public health or the environment, for example) will threaten prosperity"
"In this timely call for a new social contract, Minouche Shafik invites us to rethink what we owe one another as citizens, within and across generations. In the tradition of Beveridge, one of her predecessors as director of the LSE, Shafik points us toward a more generous social contract, one that shares risks and broadens opportunity. At a time when government seems broken, this excellent book offers a hopeful framework for social, economic, and political renewal"
– Michael J. Sandel, author of The Tyranny of Merit: Can We Find the Common Good?
"A necessary contribution at a turning-point in history. Minouche Shafik maps out the great challenges of our time and inspires us to rise to them. Her book is a must-read for policymakers – as well as anyone interested in making the world a better place"
– Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
"Minouche Shafik's up-to-the-moment book presents a powerful and persuasive moral argument. She calls for a more generous, more equal world and offers an analysis that is rigorous and specific enough to help readers think practically about the policies needed to bring that world into being. For societies asking how to rebuild, What We Owe Each Other is an important place to start"
– Melinda Gates
"A thought-provoking, beautifully argued, and easily accessible book. It is a must-read for all those seeking to understand why the bonds that bind society together are so frayed and what we can do about it to create a world fit for our children and grandchildren to live in"
– Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation
"This erudite book argues that we need to recognise our obligations to each other and to society [...] a thought-provoking addition to our current, urgent debates"
– Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail
"Informed by her many journeys to all corners of the world, Minouche Shafik weaves economics, philosophy, wisdom and common sense into a social contract of simplicity, solidity and harmony. A must-read recipe for the improvement of our life together"
– Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank
"Shafik is optimistic, her argument packed with useful, well-evidenced, orthodox policy prescriptions for a new social contract [...] a compassionate analysis of the state of our world [...] detailed policies to address the needs of children and the elderly, for the improvement of education and health systems, and to sustain the world of work"
– Ann Pettifor, Times Literary Supplement