Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Dr Mark Davis

Associate Professor of Sociology

A sociologist of economic life, I am primarily interested in the relationships between money, markets and morality. In a world as deeply financialized as ours, in which every institution seems to have surrendered to the basic logic of economism, I am evaluating the chances and dangers for progressive and meaningful social change through the possibilities of doing different, more responsible things with our money.

This has led me to co-produce a research agenda with the UK’s Alternative Finance movement across business, government and civil society that provide a sociological challenge to conventional economic interpretations of money and finance through the lens of moral decision-making across spending, borrowing, savings and investments. This agenda has established points of comparison between alternative finance and alternative energy systems, with the urgent need to build more sustainable transitions to provision-based economies animating this multi-disciplinary space through an examination of new funding models for large- and small-scale renewable energy infrastructure.

On all of the above, I am a consultant to UK centre-left think tanks, chiefly Finance Innovation Lab, New Economics Foundation, and Compass. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA), principally contributing to their Citizens Economic Council and Inclusive Growth Commission initiatives, and have appeared in two independent documentary films linked to my research, The Trouble with Being Human These Days (2013) and Money: A Confused User’s Guide (2015).

I am Founding Director of the Bauman Institute (2010-) and was also Director of Building Sustainable Societies, one of the University’s flagship Transformation Fund Projects (2013-2015). I worked intermittently in France as an Expert Advisor to the Council of Europe (2008 – 2011) to develop the first Charter of Shared Social Responsibilities, presented to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels (March 2011) and adopted by the Committee of Ministers (January 2014)

Research Interests

FUSION – Effects of Financialzation on employment and wealth distribution, UK/Spain (2017-2018)
Funded by Horizon 2020 / Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, FUSION brings together experts from the UK and Spain in order to conduct innovative research to analyse the effects of financialization on the economy and society, specifically on the fields of employment and wealth distribution. Starting in September 2017, this 12 month project will lead to knowledge transfer as it aims to explore new models of money-currency that allow for a more balanced relationship between the process of monetary accumulation and the generation of employment, and to evaluate the growing potential of alternative/democratic finance innovations in the UK for other nations across the Eurozone.

FITTER – Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience (2015-2016)
Funded by Friends Provident Foundation, FITTER provided the first independent qualitative assessment of the UK’s Alternative Finance Movement. A decade of global financial turmoil has thrown open major questions around traditional banking, lending and the international money markets. One response to this has been the emergence of ‘alternative finance’ – ostensibly founded on more moral grounds. Organisations operating in the alternative finance arena suggest that these can each be inclusive instruments of social change, delivering the power of money back to the public. They point to their capacity to contribute to sustainable growth and prosperity which can in turn foster greater social cohesion and tackle rising inequalities. But do they work, for whom and why?

CRISES – Community Resilience: Investigating Social and Economic Sustainability (2013-2017)
This research project utilised the proposed Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay renewable energy development as a case study to explore the social and economic impact on communities during significant energy transitions. We utilised the idea of resilience as a way to conceptually frame the impact of large-scale infrastructure developments on localities, and to explore the role of local communities, the potential capacity of the private sector to contributing to local forms of resilience, and to develop insights into good practice for community involvement and community benefit.

Research Income

2017 Horizon 2020 / Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (Individual Fellowship)
(PI) The Effects of Financialization on employment and wealth distribution in the UK and Spain (with Dr Matide Masso, 12 months), Value: £97,727.40

2015 Energy Systems Catapult Ltd
(Co-I) Alternative Finance Opportunity (with Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, CCAF), Value: £5280.00

2015 Friends Provident Foundation
(PI) Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience (6 months), Value: £60,723.44

2014 Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd
(PI) Investment in fixed-term Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Community Resilience (24 months), Value: £105,000.00

2012 Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd
(PI) Investment in fixed-term Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Community Resilience (24 months), Value: £97,000.00

Other Income

2010 University of Leeds Campaign Fund, Philanthropic Gift to the Bauman Institute, Value: £85,000.00

2010 Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM), Warsaw, Poland, Support for the Audio-Visual Archive, the Bauman Institute Collection, Value: £15,000.00


Media Engagement

Why Don’t Economists…?  In this edition of the show on alternative economics, Marie McCahery (Positive Money, Bradford) interviews Dr Mark Davis from the University of Leeds, who is founding director of the Bauman Institute and also the lead researcher on an upcoming paper from his FITTER project on alternative finance as a challenge to the inequities and injustices of mainstream finance.


 Leeds Social Science Institute Shorts   Professor Jennifer Tomlinson (Deputy Director of Leeds Social Sciences Institute) talks to Dr Mark Davis (Associate Professor of Sociology) about his research interests in sociology of money and finance, and what a £20 note represents in terms of a moral and responsible choice. 


Postgraduate Courses
MA Contemporary Social Thought
MA Social Life of Money (forthcoming)

Undergraduate Courses
Sociology of Modern Societies (Level One)
Sociology of Consumerism (Level Three)

PhD Supervision

I welcome opportunities to supervise doctoral projects in any area related to the above research activities. I am currently involved in supervising the following research projects:

  • Social Enterprises in Egypt: Building inclusive markets and creating sustainable economic growth in national innovation systems, Sherif Youssef (Currently Self-funding, Start Date: January 2017)
  • The Anonymous Function: Assessing the historical, social, and political importance of anonymity and its function in a digital age, Robert Thornton-Lee (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Start Date: September 2015)
  • Putting creativity to work in the British art school, 1962-1997, Benjamin Hirst (ESRC 1+3, Start Date: September 2014)
  • Towards a genealogy of sustainable consumption: its representation and problematisation in semiotic discourse, Mr. David Wingate (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Start Date: September 2013)


  • What are the links between modernity and specific instances of colonial and postcolonial genocide in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa?, Jack Palmer (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Submission Date: January 2017)
  • Permanently Temping? - Learning, Earning and Precarity amongst young people in Yorkshire, Laura Cartwright (Frank Stell Award, Submission Date: October 2015)
  • Is there a space for ‘love’ within discussions of intimate citizenship?, Natasha Barnes (University of Leeds Teaching Scholarship, Submission Date: September 2015)
  • Genocide and modernity: A comparative study of Bosnia, Rwanda and the Holocaust, Jasna Balorda (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Submission Date: October 2013)


Key Publications


  • Davis M, Liquid Sociology: Metaphor in Zygmunt Bauman's Writings on Modernity, ed. by Davis M (London: Routledge, 2013)

  • Bauman's Challenge: Sociological Issues for the Twenty-First Century, ed. by Davis M and Tester K (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230290457

  • Davis M, Freedom and Consumerism: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman's sociology (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2008)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/42777/

Journal articles

  • Hall S, Roelich KE, Davis ME, Holstenkamp L, ‘Finance and justice in low-carbon energy transitions’, Applied Energy, 222 (2018), 772-780 (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.04.007, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/129835/

  • Campbell T, Davis M, Palmer J, ‘Hidden Paths in Zygmunt Bauman’s Sociology: Editorial Introduction’, Theory, Culture and Society 2018
    DOI: 10.1177/0263276418767568, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/131012/

  • Davis M, Braunholtz-Speight T, ‘Democratic Finance? A Qualitative Study of Entrepreneurs in the UK’s FinTech Sector’, Economy and Society (In preparation)

  • Davis M, Braunholtz-Speight T, Wardrop R, Wooldridge J, ‘Prepared to Lose’: Investor Behaviour, Motivations and Trust in UK Crowdfunding Markets’, Socio-Economic Review (In preparation)


  • Davis M, Cartwright L, ‘Deferred Lives’: Money, Debt, and the Financialized Futures of Young Temporary Workers’, in The Sociology of Debt (Chicago University Press / Policy Press, 2018) (Accepted)

  • Davis M, ‘Bauman on Globalization: The Human Consequences of a Liquid World’, in The Sociology of Zygmunt Bauman: Challenge and Critique, ed. by Jacobsen MH and Poder P (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2008), 136-153


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