Research Interests


Louise Haagh, Debate at Cambridge Union (2018): source


Institutional Political Economy, Development Ethics, and Democratisation

I have worked or done research on the comparative political economy of development in several countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia, and Europe. I am interested institutional foundations for inclusive and sustainable growth, and the comparative historical study of development, from both a political and ethical perspective. 

Nowadays am primarily interested in the study of conditions for democratic development and its role in expanding freedom for individuals. Establishing social conditions for freedom presupposes cooperation and in cooperation a form of purposeful humanity. I am interested in how this kind of cooperation arises and is formalised. Do good institutions in this sense arise without design, from certain prior conditions, for instance generating cooperation out of necessity? This problem for example has motivated my interest in Nordic welfare states, their evolution, history and function (2001, 2011b,Basic Income, Social Democracy and Control over Time,”  2012, 2015, 2018,The Developmental Social Contract and Basic Income in Denmark

2019b; The Case for Universal Basic Income,). How can today’s society learn from the past? I ask these questions in different pieces of work on the regulatory foundations for freedom (2002a, 2007a, 2018b, 2019b), and in the study of how cooperative forms of public finance evolve (2012, Democracy, Public Finance, and Property Rights in Economic Stability: How More Horizontal Capitalism Upscales Freedom for All,” 2015). Where do the values of freedom and equality come from? To what extent are they socially bound or/and recurrent? What is the role of education and shared knowledge in democratic development (2002a, 2015)? In applied work I have examined when representation enhances skills-led economic development, and informal bargaining and dispersal of private skills regimes weakens it (1999, Training Policy and the Property Rights of Labour in Chile: Social Citizenship in the Atomised Market Regime,” 2002a,c).The same concern with public capability has motivated my study of how developmental states recover from financial crises (2004a), and the question when and why barriers to democratic development persist, or/and substantive aspects of democracy corrode (2001,

The Emperor’s New Clothes - Labour Reform and Social Democratisation in Chile2002a,c; 2004b 2019a,b). I have recently applied this to look at the connection between economic populism and the acceleration of long-term governance corrosion after the 2007 global financial crisis (2018b, 2019c).

Besides my work on democratisation, I am interested to better understand the meaning of the concept of freedom, in particular freedom as a state of intrinsic well-being within human experience, and the connection of freedom in this sense with equality (2007a“Developmental Freedom and Social Order – Rethinking the Relation between Work and Equality). In this context, It is necessary to conceptualise how some inequalities may be inevitable or even indirectly functional for other forms of equality.  For example, a society that ensures against developmental risks cannot allocate resources equally. Hence, I think that only by looking at developmental conditions of being human can we get nearer to understanding the value of different dimensions of equality and the role of social cooperation and human empathy in relation to freedom. This perspective informs the substance of my work on basic income and human development, and the normative foundations of welfare (2002a, 2015, “Alternative Social States and the Basic Income Debate: Institutions, Inequality and Human Development,2019a). Incidentally, I am interested in the reasons why traditions of Anglo-liberal and continental European thought conceive of freedom in society differently, and said traditions of thought are reproduced through law and public policy.

Given my interests, my work is necessarily interdisciplinary. I use the comparative historical study of institutions and systems’ function, political and economic theory, statistics, and psychology and other fields of study in human development to explore specific problems. I have a particular interest in methodology and the link between concept, policy, and measurement: how do measures of things we have inherited alter our conception of new political problems, and block us from conceiving alternatives? Why for example do we think insecurity is important for productivity? The concept of wellbeing also changes depending on how we attach it to human experience and evidence. I see the role of academics as challenging conventional measures in the reproduction of knowledge and models of development.  In my work, I have explored new developmental measures of freedom and tried to tease out what the governance implications are by looking at the role of different stable settings in shaping human experience (2007a, 2011aWorking Life, Well-Being and Welfare Reform: Motivation and Institutions Revisited). A key problem now shaping production through targeting competitive outcomes is the value this creates around the speed of competitive processes and striving against the functionality of discerning, guarding and valuing things which competitive targets miss out (2019a). I have discussed this problem in connection with consequences for wellbeing and society of how education is organised (2012). Our concept of tackling and preventing coercion in society also depends a lot on whether and how we consider the social roots of crime and society’s duty to protect. I am also interested in how far public law can protects citizen in the context of shifting government policies, in particular when states are under global economic pressure (2002,c, 2019a).



Below are topics under the broad heading of democratisation that I have covered in my books and articles