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.

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


In this episode, George Miller speaks to Jack McDonald, author of What is War for?, about why he chose to focus on war’s twenty-first century character rather than its ancient origins, and writing the book as the events of the Russo-Ukrainian war unfolded in real time. Listen to the podcast.


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.


Tim Stevens, author of What Is Cybersecurity For?, considers the infinite need for cybersecurity and explains why it’s simply not working. Read the article.

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