What's in it for me?

Self-interest and political difference

By Thomas Prosser

What's in it for me?


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5231-2
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: January 2021
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Philosophy, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Political Theory, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 21st Century, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism, PHILOSOPHY / Political, Society & social sciences / Political ideologies


This punchy and provocative book asks a simple but overlooked question: why do we have the political views that we do?

Offering a lively and original analysis of five worldviews - conservatism, national populism, liberalism, the new left and social democracy - Thomas Prosser argues that our views tend to satisfy self-interest, albeit indirectly, and that progressive worldviews are not as altruistic as their adherents believe. But What's in it for me? is far from pessimistic. Prosser contends that recognition of self-interest makes us more self-reflective, allowing us to see humanity in adversaries and countering the influence of echo chambers.

As populist parties rise and liberalism and social democracy decline, this timely intervention argues that to solve our political differences, we must first realise what we have in common.


'This book is a model of intellectual clarity and political sophistication. It starts with simple and correct reflections on human nature and works outwards to illuminate the political scene. You can disagree with some judgments, agree with others but you will definitely profit from its plausible arguments.'
Daniel Finkelstein, columnist and associate editor, The Times

'Impressive for the broadness of its horizon, the clarity of its analysis and the fairness of its approach, What's in it for me? is a timely and necessary exploration of what motivates politics at every level.'
Rafael Behr, political columnist, The Guardian

'None of us has a monopoly on wisdom and we can all learn not just from understanding our political adversaries a little better, but also from taking a look in the mirror now and then. This timely, well-argued book encourages us to do both and is all the more engaging for it.'
Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary University of London and Deputy Director of UK in a Changing Europe

'In a time when the discussion of politics has become coarse and angry, Thomas Prosser shows that the key to understanding, rather than merely condemning, political opponents lies in accepting that we all bring our self-interest to politics. Those who disagree with us are not bad people - they just disagree and they usually have a good reason to do so. This important new book shows us how to get along better by disagreeing in a temperate way, which is the only way for a liberal democratic political culture to thrive.'
Philip Collins, author of When They Go Low, We Go High


1 What's in it for me?
2 Are conservatives bastards?
3 Are Brexiters stupid?
4 Are liberal values wealthy values?
5 The new left - all about that base
6 Is social democracy finished?


Thomas Prosser is a Reader in European Social Policy at Cardiff University

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