Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Dr Mark Davis

Associate Professor of Sociology

I came to Leeds as an MA student in 2000 and also completed my PhD here. I am Founding Director of the Bauman Institute and a member of the ‘Inequalities’ academic area within the School. I am also the co-Admissions Tutor for Sociology & Social Policy.

I worked intermittently in France as an Expert Advisor to the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2011, contributing to the evidence base for the first Charter of Shared Social Responsibilities, presented to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels in March 2011 and adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 22 January 2014. Between October 2013 and October 2015, I directed the University’s Building Sustainable Societies transformation programme of cross-disciplinary research activity and integrated this initiative into the new ‘Cities’ research theme.

I work as a consultant on conceptual and policy issues with social and economic policy think tanks in the UK, principally Compass and New Economics Foundation, and more recently Finance Innovation Lab, Money Comms Lab, and Positive Money. I work closely with research partners in the ‘democratic finance’ business sector, most notably Abundance and UKCFA.

Through my research, I have appeared in two independent documentary films, The Trouble with Being Human These Days (2013) and Money: A Confused User’s Guide (2015).

Research Interests

My primary research focus is in the sociology of money, markets and morality with a particular focus upon the social consequences of consumerism, financialization and marketization in heavily-indebted neoliberal societies. I am interested in the capture and translation of the social world by economic interests, specifically how human freedom is reduced to market choice and how extreme levels of indebtedness are reconciled with the challenge of creating fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable societies around the world. This work has led me to engage directly with the alternative finance movement in the UK, both in terms of assessing innovative forms of social lending and borrowing (P2P Finance, crowdfunding, community shares) to disrupt conventional economic behaviours, and in terms of evaluating the social impact of different models for funding large scale renewable energy developments.

I am currently PI on two externally-funded research projects:

FITTER – Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience (2015-2016)

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 ‘democratic finance’ models such as crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, and community debenture schemes – 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 business growth and prosperity which can in turn foster greater social cohesion and tackle rising inequalities.

But do they work, for whom and why? This new project, funded by Friends Provident Foundation establishes an urgent need to understand the viability and desirability of these schemes, their potential social and ethical impact – and their possible benefits.

SLED – Social Impacts of Local Energy Developments (2013-2017)

Working with Dr Katy Wright, this research project is using the proposed Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay (TLSB) renewable energy development as a case study to explore the role of communities in energy developments, and the social and economic impact of local energy infrastructure.  We are using 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, both in terms of consultation and community benefit.  A key aim is to explore the potential role of the private sector in contributing to, or undermining, local forms of resilience, and to develop insights into good practice for community involvement and community benefit.  We have also critically engaged with policy and practice in the field of community resilience, and worked to develop a model of resilience which enables engagement with the ways in which local resilience is shaped by different actors operating at different levels of analysis.


The teaching I offer at Leeds is research-led and blends theoretical insight with the practical analysis of everyday life. Between 2010 and 2015, I was programme manager for MA Social and Political Thought.

Below are the specific modules I offer at different levels:

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

Undergraduate Courses
Sociology of Consumerism (Level Three)

I also offer guest lectures across the curriculum in my areas of research interest, principally on Sociology of Modern Societies (Level One).

PhD Supervision

I am currently involved in supervising the following research projects:

  • The Anonymous Function: Assessing the historical, social, and political importance of anonymity and its function in a digital age, Robert Lee (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Start Date: September 2015)
  • Robbing us of our taxes? The emergence of the welfare state and contemporary attitudes to welfare provision in the UK, Rebecca Taylor (ESRC 1+3, Start Date: September 2015)
  • Putting creativity to work in the British art school, 1962-1997, Benjamin Hirst (ESRC 1+3, Start Date: September 2014)
  • 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, Start Date: September 2013)
  • 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)
  • Is there a space for ‘love’ within discussions of intimate citizenship?, Natasha Barnes (University of Leeds Teaching Scholarship, Start Date: September 2010)


  • Permanently Temping? -  Learning, Earning and Precarity amongst young people in Yorkshire, Laura Cartwright (Frank Stell Research Award, Submission Date: October 2015)
  • Genocide and modernity: A comparative study of Bosnia, Rwanda and the Holocaust, Jasna Balorda (University of Leeds Research Scholarship, Submission Date: October 2013)

I am keen to receive applications from promising research students in any of the following broad areas:

  • Sociology of Economic Life
  • Sociology of Money and Alternative Finance
  • Sociology of Debt
  • Sociology of Markets
  • Contemporary Social Though (Bauman and Beyond)

Key Publications

Key Publications

Davis, Mark (ed.) (2013) Liquid Sociology: Metaphor in the Writings of Zygmunt Bauman’s Sociology. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Davis, Mark (2013) ‘Hurried Life: Rethinking Time and Technology in the Consumer Society’, Thesis Eleven, 118, 1: 7-18.

Davis, Mark (2011) ‘Bauman’s Compass: Navigating the current interregnum’, Acta Sociologica, 54, 2: 183-194.

Davis, Mark (2011) ‘Shared social responsibility as a key-concept in managing the current interregnum’, Towards a Europe of shared social responsibilities: challenges and strategies, Trends in Social Cohesion, No. 23. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, pp. 81-101.

Davis, Mark (2011) ‘From Individualism to Interdependence: A Basis for Shared Social Responsibility’, Towards a Europe of shared social responsibilities: challenges and strategies, Trends in Social Cohesion, No. 23. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, pp. 103-113.

Davis, Mark & Tester, Keith (eds) (2010) Bauman’s Challenge: Sociological Issues for the Twenty-First Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Davis, Mark (2008) Freedom and Consumerism: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Sociology. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Reviewed in the Times Higher.

Davis, Mark (2008) ‘Bauman on Globalisation: The Human Consequences of a Liquid World’, in Michael Hviid Jacobsen & Poul Poder (eds) The Sociology of Zygmunt Bauman: Challenges and Critique. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, pp. 137-153.

Research Income

2015    Friends Provident Foundation

(PI) Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience (6 months), Value: £30,000.00

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 Revenue

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

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