People’s PPE

A new initiative:

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford is the degree course of choice for those in politics, policy or journalism. In fact more than 40 current MPs including the Prime Minister have studied PPE, as have countless other world leaders.

This is because knowledge of politics and economics, and the philosophy that underlies the two, allows one to more meaningfully engage with, comment upon, and indeed govern society. Those who do not have access to this knowledge are open to manipulation by those who do.*

We do not think that those in power should have a monopoly on this knowledge.

Our project, “People’s PPE”, was officially launched at Momentum London East End’s inaugural event with John McDonnell MP. Join us for a series of lectures, seminars, debates and workshops aiming to empower the grassroots and enable ordinary people to become more politically engaged and literate.


Here is the PPE syllabus. Go read that, go read what it tells you to read, then you’re done, right?

25 thoughts on “People’s PPE”

  1. This Labour leadership is fantastically predictable. No matter how odd the idea (and this is by no means the most odd), if you stick “People’s” in front of it, they lap it up. Maybe the Tories should start calling their policies “People’s Long-Term Economic Plan”, “People’s Austerity” and “People’s Tax Credit Cuts”.

  2. And you have to remember. They invent, discover and create everything of intellectual value.

    Everything done by elitists is bad. Oxford is elitist and bad and therefore crap and anyway monopolist! (Lordy, save me from them).

    Their version, by virture of being theirs, is therefore better in every way.

    Love to see a debate between the different alumni after three years of intense whatever….

    Why does the word ‘indoctrination’ come to mind in the People’s PPE, but not in the Oxford one?

  3. So PPE is basically the upper-middle-class version of “gender studies”. An also-ran degree for the less capable scions of the Farquhars and Fotherington-Smyths of this world.

  4. BiG

    Well it would be if it wasn’t the most oversubscribed course at Oxford. The degree won’t necessarily make you any smarter – which does – but you have to be pretty smart to be invited to do it.

    There is a reason why employers are interested in which University and what course you studied: they’re not interested in the content of the degree, but in the fact that you jumped whichever hurdle is in place to get there and do that.

  5. ‘…allows one to more meaningfully engage with, comment upon, and indeed govern society.’

    The evidence from observation does not support this.

    As my grandma was fond of saying, money can buy an education, but it cannot buy brains.

    Exhibit A: Parliament’s Front Benches.

  6. Philip Walker

    Absolutely – there are other regimes that do this, of course – most notably the closest thing extant in the world today to the principles espoused in the ‘Curajus State’ and the ‘Joy of Tax’.

    Which is a model for the type of thinking this course is likely to contain!

  7. Recusant: “Well it would be if it wasn’t the most oversubscribed course at Oxford”

    It is oversubscribed because all the little wannabe political pigs see it as a sure route into the system. A royal road to wealth out of all proportion to their meagre talents and , better still, a way to end up lording it over others. Which is the real payoff for most power-seekers. Lots of cash is just a welcome bonus.

  8. The thing about PPE is that you can choose your options such that it becomes basically Politics with a minimal smattering of Economics and Philosophy, or any combination of the 3 within the bounds of the number of papers you can physically sit. Every PPE degree has its unique combination of papers.

  9. In fact, after the first year, you can drop one subject entirely. From memory, most PPEists dropped Economics.

  10. I’m a great believer in PPE’s.. Excellent indicator of who should be kicked to jelly with studded boots. I’ve absolutely no objection to extending the availability to these People.

  11. Well yes, but it’s probably better for an aspiring politician to have a PPE degree from Oxford than for the peak of his academic achievement to consist of two E-grades at ‘A’-Level.

  12. A young chum was bound to Oxford to study one of their philosophy-and-chips degrees, but intending first to have a jolly good Freshers’ Week. First disappointment: invitation to roll up to College on the Wednesday before term. Oh all right; at least he’d have a jolly good Freshers’ half-week. Second disappointment: on reporting to the tutorial office, was handed the topic for his first essay and told to get it to his tutor’s pigeon-hole by Friday noon.

    When I heard this tale of woe I laughed and laughed. What do you think your poor parents are paying for, laddie?

  13. Surely half the point of PPE at Oxford is getting to meet the “right” people. You won’t get that at wherever the people’s PPE is to be held.

  14. So it’s a sort of unofficial equivalent to the French ENA system. Given how well that’s worked out, what possible objection could there be.

    But the very existence of such a degree (and the ENA system) is predicated on the assumption that everything must be governed, regulated, and by overlords not consensual agreement of the participants. Which means whatever they teach on the course itself, it’ll be anathema to most of the readers of this blog.

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Isn’t “People’s PPE” just the most tin-eared thing you’ve ever heard? It rolls off the tongue like Murphy on a hot day unsticking himself from the vinyl chair in his shed.

  16. @Recusant/Ecks – when I were a nipper, 25 years ago, PPE was (for my minor public school ilk) considered the easiest option to get in to Oxford and an easy ride once there. Not quite as easy as land economy at Cambridge of course, but still with an academic sheen.
    So, lots of applicants, none of them great minds. I would guess that the applications for physics or straight philosophy* are far fewer but the collective IQs far far greater.

    *I have never met a single PPE student who expressed the slightest interest in, of knowledge of, philosophy.

  17. Back in 1990 you couldn’t do straight philosphy at Oxford, you had to mix it up with something. The main choices apart from PPE were Psychology & Physiology (my choice, apart from the Physiology), Maths, and Physics.

    I have a few friends who did the latter two, and they are indeed rather clever.

    PPE does include mandatory philosophy – Bentham and Mill, IIRC. I was in fact on the PPE philosophy course for most of a term, until my tutor realised I was actually doing PPP and he’d gotten bit confused 🙂

  18. @ Pelklinor
    Back in the dark ages when I was “up”, Philosophy was also part of “Greats” (classics and philosophy), studied by great intellects who didn’t need to bother with a “vocational” course like medicine or natural sciences.
    But at my school the “Economics Sixth” was for thickos.

  19. When I was “up”, the philosophy component of PPE was dominated by analytic philosophy and was more akin to mathematics and formal logic than most students expected. Also, the economics course was heavily mathematical. Which is why the politics options tended to be more popular.

    However, Literae Humaniores (Greats), where you could study ancient and modern philosophy, involved a lot of Greek and Latin, which was also not to everyone’s taste. The thought of reading Plato and Aristotle in the original did not appeal to many folks.

    Some people, who were interested in philosophy, switched to Theology instead, because it placed more emphasis on stuff such as Ethics.

    I think there was 1 person at my college who read PPP. Physics and Philosophy must have been devised after my time. Someone should have made Hawking sit it, then he might have made a better stab at the cod-philosophy in his Brief History of Time.

  20. Crikey, there seem to be a lot of members of the university here. Abacab is another such and I’m surprised he hasn’t turned up to be scathing about PPE yet.

    As a modern linguist with added linguistics for extra fun, I occupied the middle ground which derided PPE undergraduates on the one hand while heaping scorn on those earnest souls who got up early to go to lectures.

    Sadly it seems that nowadays universities in general are attended by people afraid of ideas.

  21. TMB

    Did you actually do both linguistics options, the synchronic and diachronic ones? If so, I am not sure whether I respect you or think you got tired of reading, or faking knowledge of 20 novels per week.

  22. “Someone should have made Hawking sit it, then he might have made a better stab at the cod-philosophy in his Brief History of Time.”

    Improved his physics?

  23. BIS

    his physics are not beyond dispute but with his book he went the full philosophy route and …it was a massive commercial success but I wonder how many philosophers use it as tuition guides for how not to do philosophy.

  24. having never been near PPE, i have nonetheless acquired the belief the ‘E’ part is mostly about public finance (aka “How to use Tory Englands collective credit rating”) and not much to do with “Wealth of Nations” sort of stuff, but I don’t know, just a thought of mine.

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