IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New book investigates the major problems facing societies today

19 August 2019

A new book tackling some of the most pressing problems facing societies today has been published.

People walking over Millennium Bridge in London

‘Societal Problems as Public Bads’, co-written by IOE academic Dr Dingeman Wiertz and Nan Dirk de Graaf (University of Oxford), examines a wide range of societal problems including economic inequality, religious fundamentalism, large-scale migration and climate change and seeks to trace the social processes in which these problems are rooted.

Rather than looking at the problems through the lens of one particular discipline, the book takes these problems as a starting-point and investigates what different social science disciplines have to offer for better understanding them. Through examining problems from many angles, the book provides a comprehensive summary of the causes and implications of these issues. 

“The book shows that many societal problems originate from actions that are individually rational and often without harmful intentions,” said Dr Wiertz. 

“Climate change is only one example: nobody actively wants to destroy the environment, but the way things are going, we are certainly heading that way. To better understand this apparent discrepancy, we have to consider the options and incentives of individual actors, whether they are individual consumers, firms, or governments.”

The book also discusses why certain problems rank higher on the public agenda than others, and why government intervention may sometimes help to address societal problems, yet on other occasions make matters worse. For example, while it might at first glance seem like building a border wall would reduce the size of a country’s illegal population, the opposite may well be the result. Similarly, sending more people to prison will not necessarily bring down crime levels. 

‘Societal Problems as Public Bads’ provides a significant amount of data on trends relating to different social problems and how they vary by country. This helps provide evidence on the important questions facing society today.