Professor Mark Davis

Professor Mark Davis


I studied for my Honours degree in Social Sciences at Newcastle University, a programme encompassing sociology, anthropology and political economy. I came to University of Leeds in 2000 to study for an MA Sociology and won a University scholarship to conduct research for my PhD in the School. I became a lecturer in the School in 2008 and was promoted to Professor in 2022. Having had a number of leadership roles throughout my time at Leeds, I now hold the position of Deputy Head of School (Strategy).

My work applies sociological theory to grand challenge questions of sustainability and climate breakdown. I’m particularly interested in a social relations of money and finance perspective, which I use to study just and inclusive transitions to decarbonised societies. Through a series of externally-funded projects (details below), I have opened up new interdisciplinary collaborations at the intersection of economic sociology and energy research. I am best known for founding and for 10 years directing The Bauman Institute at Leeds, and for co-creating Local Climate Bonds – a new model of investment-based crowdfunding to help finance place-based net-zero infrastructure.

The sociological ideas shaping this work are captured in my latest book Crowdfunding and the Democratization of Finance (2021, Bristol University Press).

Leadership Roles

From 2013-2016, I was director of Building Sustainable Societies (2013-2016), a large strategic initiative to support social science collaboration at Leeds that secured £10.7M of external research income. I have also been a member of Faculty Research and Innovation Committee (2014-2017) and LSSI’s Steering Group (2014-2017).

Within the School, from 2015-2018 I was director of Recruitment and Admissions (2015-2018), and more recently I was one of the School’s REF2021 Impact Case Study authors.

Knowledge Transfer

I’m into my second term as a member of the Editorial Board for the journal, Sociology. I am a reviewer of applications submitted to the EC’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and to Friends Provident Foundation’s ‘Fair Economy’ programme. Early in my career, I worked intermittently in Paris and Strasbourg as an advisor to the Council of Europe (2008-2011), and more recently was the external examiner of three taught-postgraduate programmes at the Brussels School of International Studies (2018-2021).

I’ve also shared my research via podcasts (Another EuropeThe Measure of Everyday Life, Cultural Life of Money and Finance, Local Zero Pod), radio (Why Don’t Economists?), and national and industry-facing media (The Financial Times, The Guardian, and P2P Finance).


  • Deputy Head of School (Strategy)
  • Corporate Partnerships and Business Engagement Lead (Social Sciences)
  • Director of the Bauman Institute (2010-2020)

Research interests

My focus throughout the early part of my career was on the relationship between economy and ethics, manifest in a long-standing interest in Zygmunt Bauman’s sociology. During my PhD, I specialised in tracing the concept of freedom in Bauman’s writings on consumerism, politics and morality, which led to my first book Freedom and Consumerism (Routledge, 2008) reviewed in the Times Higher Education Supplement. Subsequently, I completed a trilogy of books on Bauman’s work by editing two volumes, Bauman’s Challenge (Palgrave, 2010) and Liquid Sociology (Routledge, 2013). I secured investment to establish The Papers of Janina and Zygmunt Bauman archive in Special Collections, and I am the senior editor of a three-volume book series of his lesser-known ‘selected writings’ published by Polity: Culture and Art (2021), History and Politics (2023), and Theory and Society (forthcoming, 2024).

In parallel to this, I have retained my interest in the interdisciplinary research puzzles surrounding the intersection of economy and ethics, pursuing empirical lines of enquiry to study alternative economic practices that seek to promote a fairer, greener and more inclusive society in the context of sustainability and climate breakdown. In 2015, I secured funding to hang out with the UK crowdfunding sector and in 2016 worked with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Cambridge University to deliver regulatory change to improve protections for new investors in crowdfunding markets.

In 2018, I led a government-funded research project to assess the suitability of crowdfunding for delivering UK public sector projects. I built a collaborative team of academic, business, industry, local authority, and legal / financial service partners to design a programme of research that led to the co-creation of Community Municipal Investments (CMIs). Brought to market in 2020 as ‘Local Climate Bonds’, to date the model has helped to raised nearly £8M for UK local authorities fund place-based net zero projects (principally solar PV and electric vehicle infrastructure). The CMI model has also inspired a UK-wide campaign led the Green Finance Institute.

More recently, I co-led a team based at Leeds, Strathclyde and Sussex Universities to explore alternative approaches to domestic ‘retrofit’ – the installation of energy efficiency measures in buildings. Applying ideas from relational sociology, we developed a new ‘social relations of energy’ framework expressed through a series of publications (see below) to challenge the ‘rational actor’ model currently shaping energy policy.

My work has been supported by a sustained series of external research grants since 2012, to date totalling over £4.43M (value to Leeds £1.46M):

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Sociology
  • MA Sociology
  • BA (Hons) Social Science

Professional memberships

  • Editorial Board of Sociology journal
  • BSA Climate Change Study Group
  • BSA Work, Employment and Economic Life Study Group
  • BSA Theory Group
  • Friends Provident Foundation: Programme Advisory Group

Student education

I am committed to enquiry-based learning and delivering a first-class student experience, sustaining a strong track record of research-led teaching at all levels and alongside my leadership roles. Listed below are the modules at Leeds that I’m involved in via team teaching:

Undergraduate Taught

  • Sociology of Consumerism, SLSP3930 (UG3)
  • Research Skills for Your Dissertation, SLSP3095 (UG3)
  • States of Emergency, FOSS2001/FOSS3001 (UG2/3)
  • Sociology and the Climate Crisis, SLSP2932 (UG2)
  • Central Problems in Sociology, SLSP2730 (UG2)
  • Making Sense of Society: Reading Social Theory, SLSP1201 (UG1)
  • Sociology of Modern Societies, SLSP1020 (UG1)

Postgraduate Taught

  • Research Strategy and Design, SLSP5501M
  • Qualitative Research Methods, SLSP5308M
  • Understanding Society and Culture, SLSP5314M
  • Approaches and Methods for Media and Culture, SLSP5365M
  • Contemporary Social Thought, SLSP5141M
  • Fundamental Issues in Sociological Research, SLSP5122M

Doctoral Research

I welcome applications from prospective PhD students with interesting and impactful projects in the areas of economic sociology and energy research. I have supervised 7 doctoral students, all passing successfully, and currently supervise 5 PhD Projects:

  • 2023: Menik Budiarti – Micro Business Growth among People with Visual Impairment in Indonesia
  • 2022: Paula Cristina Corrêa Bologna – Housing Financialisation in Two Brazilian Capitals: An Ethnographic Approach to Debt and Gender
  • 2020: Caroline Bentham – Quantitative Easing in theory and in practice: a critical interdisciplinary analysis
  • 2019: Karl Lukas Chakravorty-Aspelin – Democratising Finance? An Evaluation of Global Innovations in Finance
  • 2018: Sherif Youssef – Social Enterprises In-Transition: Social Welfare, Entrepreneurship and the Political Economy in the State of Cairo


  • 2020: Dr Robert Thornton-Lee – The Anonymous Function: Assessing the historical, social, and political importance of anonymity and its function in a digital age
  • 2020: Dr Ben Hirst – Enterprise Cultures in Higher Education and the Creative Arts
  • 2019: Dr David Wingate – Towards a Genealogy of Sustainable Consumption
  • 2017: Dr Jack Palmer – What are the links between modernity and specific instances of colonial and postcolonial genocide in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa?
  • 2016: Dr Natasha Barnes – Love, A Frame Analysis: Exploring the Organization of Emotion
  • 2015: Dr Laura Cartwright – Permanently Temping? Learning, Earning and Precarity amongst young people in Yorkshire
  • 2013: Dr Jasna Balorda – Genocide and modernity: A comparative study of Bosnia, Rwanda and the Holocaust

I have also hosted international PhD students since 2015 – Soares (Brazil, 2015, 2016), Alvarez (Spain, 2019), Leiva (Mexico, 2019), and Bastero (Spain, 2018) – and I have examined 7 doctorates, 3 internationally (Melbourne, 2017 – Andrews; Tallinn, 2018 – Aidnek; Valencia, 2020 – Leiva).

Research groups and institutes

  • The Bauman Institute
  • Leeds Social Science Institute

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>