Policy Press
What is it for

What is it for

The status quo is broken. Humanity today faces multiple interconnected challenges, some of which could prove existential. If we believe the world could be different, if we want it to be better, examining the purpose of what we do – and what is done in our name – is more pressing than ever.

The What Is It For? series examines the purpose of the most important aspects of our contemporary world, from religion and free speech to animal rights and the Olympics. It illuminates what these things are by looking closely at what they do.

The series offers fresh thinking on current debates that gets beyond the over-heated polemics and easy polarizations. Across the series, leading experts explore new ways forward, enabling readers to engage with the possibility of real change.

The first books in the series, on war, cybersecurity and philanthropy published in March 2023, with animal rights publishing in October 2023 and titles on religion, prisons and many more set to be published soon.

Each book explains not only the history behind the topic and how it functions, but also the purpose it serves in our society­ – and, crucially, how it could work better.


"The time for series which merely set the objective of describing something is over."

George Miller, series editor, introduces the core idea behind the series.


Jules Boykoff, author of What Are the Olympics For?, is a professor of politics and government at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. He is also a former professional soccer player who represented the US U-23 men’s national team in international competition.


George Miller speaks to Rhodri Davies, author of What is Philanthropy for?, about why he thinks this is a good time to ask questions about the purpose of philanthropy, and its relationship to democracy, inequality and the market. Listen to the podcast.


Steve Cooke, author of What Are Animal Rights For?, talks with George Miller about how the field of animal rights evolved – and continues to evolve as advances in the scientific understanding of animals’ lives expand the rights claims made on their behalf. Listen to the podcast.


Meet the Editor

George Miller

I’ve worked in publishing for over thirty years since starting as a rep in a battered Nissan Cherry in northern Greece. At Oxford University Press I set up the Very Short Introductions series in the early 1990s, convinced that short, affordable books can, and should, be intelligent and thought-provoking.

The What's It For? series seeks, like the Press as a whole, to be an agent for positive change. It will ask tough questions about purpose and fitness for purpose: what has to change for the future to be better? I’m greatly looking forward to exploring these questions with authors who are specialists in their fields and – equally important – passionate about communicating to a wide readership.

If you are interested in getting in touch, please contact me at

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