David Spencer

David Spencer

Head of Economics Division,
Professor of Economics and Political Economy

+44 (0)113 343 4491
Academic, Economics, Applied Institute of Research in Economics (AIRE), Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change (CERIC)
G.25, Maurice Keyworth Building
Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change:


PhD Economics, University of Leeds
MA Economics, University of Leeds
BA (Hons) Economics, CNAA


2013 to date: Professor of Economics and Political Economy, University of Leeds

2004 to 2013: Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Leeds

1998 - 2004: Lecturer in Economics, University of Leeds


My main research interests are in the area of the economics and political economy of work. I have published extensively across a range of topics, including the conceptualisation of work, the changing boundaries between labour economics and other areas of labour research, and the study of the quality of work, worker well-being, and work time. I have wider interests in political economy and the history of economic thought. My approach to research and teaching encompasses ideas and insights from different disciplines and I retain a strong interest in promoting forms of interdisciplinary research and teaching. My research has formed the basis of numerous blog posts and has featured in both national and international media.

I am a member of the coordinating team of the €8.000.000 EU FP7 funded project, Financialisation, Economy, Society, and Sustainable Development (FESSUD), 2011-2016. I co-lead two work packages in FESSUD.


LUBS1585 Economic Institutions: Industry
LUBS2040 Theories of Growth, Value and Distribution
LUBS3925 The Political Economy of Work
Economics Dissertation Supervision at the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Level


Head of Economics Division 

FESSUD, Framework Programme 7 European Commission



The Political Economy of Work, Routledge, London, 2009. [paperback and kindle version published in 2010]

Refereed Journal Articles

‘Worker Well-Being and the Importance of Work: Bridging the Gap’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 21(2): 181–196, 2015, (with J.W. Budd).

‘Developing an Understanding of Meaningful Work in Economics: The Case for a Heterodox onomics of Work’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 39(3): 675-688, 2015.

‘Job Satisfaction, Age and Tenure: A Generalized Dynamic Random Effects Model’, Economics Letters, 130: 13-16, 2015, (with K. Chaudhuri and K. Reilly).

‘Understanding the Global Financial Crisis: Sociology, Political Economy and Heterodox Economics’, Sociology, 48(5): 938-953, 2014 (with A. Brown).

‘Workplace Relations, Unemployment and Finance-Dominated Capitalism’, Review of Keynesian Economics, 2(2): 134-146, 2014, (with G. Slater)  

‘Conceptualising Work in Economics: Negating a Disutility’, Kyklos, 67(2): 280–294, 2014.

‘Barbarians at the Gate: A Critical Appraisal of the Influence of Economics on the Field and Practice of HRM’, Human Resource Management Journal, 23(4): 346–359, 2013.

‘Promoting High Quality Work: Obstacles and Opportunities’, Journal of Business Ethics, 114(3): 583-597, 2013.  

‘Not All That It Might Seem: Why Job Satisfaction is Worth Studying Despite it Being a Poor Measure of Job Quality’, Work, Employment and Society, 26(6): 1007-1018, 2012 (with A. Brown and A. Charlwood).

‘The Nature of Economics and the Failings of the Mainstream: Lessons from Lionel Robbins’s Essay’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 36(4): 781–798, 2012 (with A. Brown)  

‘Getting Personnel: Contesting and Transcending the ‘New Labour Economics’’, Work, Employment, and Society, 25(1): 118-131, 2011.

‘Work is a Four Letter Word: The Economics of Work in Historical and Critical Perspective’, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 70(3): 563-586, 2011.

‘Labour Supply, Employment and Unemployment in Macroeconomics: A Critical Appraisal of Orthodoxy and a Heterodox Alternative’, Review of Political Economy, 22(2): 263-279, 2010, (with Malcolm Sawyer)

‘Work in Utopia: Pro-work Sentiments in the Writings of Four Critics of Classical Economics’, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 16(1): 97-122, 2009.

‘The ‘Work as Bad’ Thesis in Economics: Origins, Evolution, and Challenges’, Labor History, 50(1): 39-57, 2009.

‘On the Definition of Involuntary Unemployment’, Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(2): 718-735, 2008, (with Malcolm Sawyer)

‘Changes in HRM and Job Satisfaction, 1998–2004: Evidence from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey’, Human Resource Management Journal, 18(3): 237–56, 2008, (with Andrew Brown, Andy Charlwood, and Chris Forde)

‘Job Quality and the Economics of New Labour: A Critical Appraisal Using Subjective Survey Data’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 31(6): 941-971, 2007, (with Andrew Brown, Andy Charlwood, and Chris Forde)  

‘Fearing the Worst? The Threat of Job Loss, Participation and Productivity’, Economic and Industrial Democracy, 27(3): 369-398, 2006, (with Chris Forde and Gary Slater)

‘It’s the Taking Part that Counts? Participation, Performance and External Labour Market Conditions’, Relations Industrielles/ Industrial Relations, 61(2): 296-320, 2006, (with Chris Forde and Gary Slater).

‘Work For All Those Who Want It? Why the Neoclassical Labour Supply Curve is an Inappropriate Foundation for the Theory of Employment and Unemployment’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 30(3): 459-472, 2006.

‘A Question of Incentive? Lionel Robbins and Dennis H. Robertson on the Nature and Determinants of the Supply of Labour’, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 12(2): 261-278, 2005.

‘Rejoinder on Laurent Derobert’s ‘The Labor-less Labor Supply Model: A Little Further’, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 27: 105-106, 2005.

‘Deconstructing the Labour Supply Curve’, Metroeconomica, 55(4): 442-458, 2004.

‘From Pain Cost to Opportunity Cost: The Eclipse of the Quality of Work as a Factor in Economic Theory’, History of Political Economy, 36(2): 387-401, 2004.

‘Love’s Labour’s Lost? The Disutility of Work and Work Avoidance in the Economic Analysis of Labour Supply’, Review of Social Economy, 61(2): 235-60, 2003.

‘The Labour-less Labour Supply Model in the Era Before Phillip Wicksteed’, The Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 25(4): 505-513, 2003.

‘Driven to Abstraction? Critical Realism and the Search for the ‘Inner Connection’ of Social Phenomena’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 26(6): 773-78, 2002 (with Andrew Brown and Gary Slater).

‘Shirking the Issue? Efficiency Wages, Work Discipline, and Full Employment’, Review of Political Economy, 14(3): 313-327, 2002.

‘All Work and No Play? A Comment on Prasch’s ‘Reassessing the Labor Supply Curve’’, Journal of Economic Issues, 35(4): 995-1000, 2001.

‘The Uncertain Foundations of Transaction Costs Economics’, Journal of Economic Issues, 34(1): 61-87, 2000, (with Gary Slater).

'Braverman and the Contribution of Labour Process Analysis to the Critique of Capitalist Production – Twenty- Five Years On’, Work Employment and Society, 14(2): 223-243, 2000.

‘The Demise of Radical Political Economics? An Essay on the Evolution of a Theory of Capitalist Production’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24(5): 543-564, 2000.

Book Chapters

‘Unemployment, Power Relations, and the Quality of Work’, in P. Arestis (ed.), Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Economic Policy, Palgrave macmillan: London, 38-53, 2011.
‘Investment and Capital Accumulation’, in G. Dawson et.al. (eds.), Economics and Economic Change. Macroeconomics, Open University: Milton Keynes, 487-511, 2003.

Book Reviews

The Precariat. G. Standing, Bloomsbury: London, 2011, Work, Employment and Society, 26(4): 688-89, 2012

Working Hours and Job Sharing in the EU and the USA. Edited by T. Boeri, M. Burda, and F. Kramarz, Oxford University Press, Oxford. 2008, Economica, forthcoming.

Designing Inclusion: Tools to Raise Low-end Pay and Employment in Private Enterprise edited by Edmund S. Phelps, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003, British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.42, no.4, 759-60, 2004.

Social and Economic Motivation at Work. Theories of Motivation Reassessed, by Steen Scheuer. Handelshøjskolens Forlag: Copenhagen Business School Press, 2000, pp.218, Contemporary Sociology, vol.31, no.3, 283-84. 2002.

‘Empowering Economics’ (review article of Jim Stanford, Lance Taylor, and Ellen Houston, eds. Power, Employment, and Accumulation. Social Structures in Economic Theory and Practice), International Review of Applied Economics, vol.15, 465-470, 2001.

Reports and Other Publications

‘Cost and the ‘Means-Ends’ Definition of Economics in Lionel Robbins’s Essay: Analysis and Contemporary Implications’, In Lionel Robbins’s Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 75th anniversary conference proceedings, edited by F. Cowell and A. Witztum, STICERD LSE, 2009 (with Andrew Brown).

‘Changing Job Quality in Great Britain 1998 – 2004’, pp.70, DTI Employment Relations Research Series, No. 70, 2006 (with Andrew Brown, Andy Charlwood, and Chris Forde)

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