After Ferguson: policing and race in America

September 22, 2016

Recorded at the Battle of ideas 2015.


How will we feed Britain after Brexit?

September 16, 2016

Rob Lyons speaks to Dr Guy Smith from the National Farmers Union

The Brexit vote throws the future of British farming and indeed how to produce enough food to feed Britain into question. The EU was always notorious for its apparently huge subsidies to farmers, while other struggling sectors of the economy – as illustrated by the threatened closure of Port Talbot steel works – have been refused such support. Now, however, farmers may be hit with heavy tariffs on cereals and dairy products. For some of those who wanted to remain, the silver lining of leaving the EU is the opportunity to shake up farming policy, ditching the generous subsidies farmers receive. Is this the start of another battle between rural folk and townies, or a valuable opportunity to rethink how Britain, which already relies heavily on imports, feeds itself?

Ahead of October’s Battle of Ideas session, How will we feed Britain after Brexit?, Rob Lyons talks to Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers Union, about the future of farming in the UK.

You can find out more about this Battle of Ideas session here.

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Three snapshots of the Age of Enlightenment

September 9, 2016

Podcast: Three short lectures on Isaac Newton, John Milton and Enlightenment coffee houses and salons

On June 23rd the Institute of Ideas held a University in One Day event for young people at the Telegraph Festival of Education on the theme of the Enlightenment. We asked three speakers to give us provocations on what they believed were the most important locomotives of Enlightenment thought. In this week’s podcast Gareth Sturdy makes the case for Isaac Newton’s scientific method as a central foundation of the Enlightenment by redefining man’s relationship to nature. Dr. Shirley Dent argues for John Milton’s Areopagitica as a critical tract underpinning many of the freedoms we enjoy today. And Jacob Reynolds explains how the salons of France and coffee houses of Britain were the forums where the ideas of the Enlightenment were disseminated and discussed by the emerging public to change the world forever.


Gareth Sturdy
project lead, The Physics Factory; teacher, East London Science School

Dr Shirley Dent
author, Radical Blake; communications specialist; editor,

Jacob Reynolds
consultant, SHM Productions; BPhil in Philosophy, St Cross College, Oxford; convenor, Academy in One Day at Battle of Ideas festival

Claire Fox
director, Institute of Ideas; panelist, BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze


The emergence of the individual

September 2, 2016

Podcast: lecture by Angus Kennedy recorded at The Academy 2016

The Reformation ushered in a shift in authority from clergy to scripture, from obedience to the Word towards interpretation and opinion. Authority became grounded in a reading, in individual perspective, and open to debate. Being true to one’s conscience was more important than obedience to an external ruler: the self, the autonomy of the inner person, grew in importance and led to a conceptual distinction between subject and object, between the internal and the external world - to the emergence of the individual.


The totalitarian moment: Europe in the ‘30S to ‘50S

August 26, 2016

Podcast: lecture by Bruno Waterfield recorded at the Battle of ideas 2016

Across Europe in the 1930s a battle opened as totalitarians of the right and left sought power over man’s soul. This was not merely an exercise in traditional tyranny or authoritarianism but an attempt to break down informal relationships, to assault sovereignty and independence at the level of the nation and the individual. To destroy those boundaries of freedom that make us human, even to attack the mind itself. In Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien, the sinister party intellectual sets out the totalitarian project. “The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things but over men,” he tells Winston Smith. “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together in new shapes of your own choosing.”



August 19, 2016

Plenary lecture delivered by Josie Appleton at the Academy 2016

At the end of the Cold War many predicted that the end of political divides would lead to conflicts on cultural issues. Now young Europeans have attacked European cities in the name of Islam and Islamic state: what does this suggest about the divisions and tensions within European societies? What kind of ‘culture war’ are we witnessing?



August 12, 2016

Professor  Frank Furedi's plenary lecture at last month's Institute of Ideas Academy.

From its inception, the project of European Unification associated the problem of nationalism, military conflict and totalitarianism with the unstable character of mass politics. Consequently the worthy objective of economic unity and continent wide co-operation and co-ordination was depoliticised and recast instrumentally as matters for technocrats and experts. The launching of the EU consolidated this process and, with the acquiescence of national governments, helped encourage the technocratic turn of public life. This session discusses the uneasy relationship of the project with no name with democracy and provides a background to Brexit.


Brexit: a democratic awakening?

August 5, 2016

Podcast: Invoke Democracy Now's Rob Killick speaks to Rob Lyons

Since the vote to leave the European Union in June, the government has equivocated about when it will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, initiating the two-year process to exit the EU. Meanwhile, a host of individuals and organisations, from law firms and business tycoons to high-profile politicians and rock stars, are doing everything in their power to overturn the referendum result. In this week’s Podcast of Ideas, Rob Lyons talks to Rob Killick, a founder of Invoke Democracy Now, a group campaigning for Britain to leave the EU without delay, about the urgency of triggering Article 50 and how Brexit has reinvigorated the democratic spirit while giving an aloof political establishment the shock of a lifetime in the process.

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To find out more about Invoke Democracy Now! follow them on Facebook or Twitter.


The UK economy after Brexit

July 29, 2016

Podcast of Rob Lyons' opening remarks from this week's Institute of Ideas Economy Forum

The vote to leave the European Union has left the world’s economic experts, politicians and economic officials stunned. Voters were told that leaving the EU would hit the UK economy hard, with the only question being over what future arrangements might be made with the EU. If the UK negotiates membership of the European Economic Area, the so-called ‘Norway option’, then trade would be largely unaffected. But such a deal would almost certainly require the UK continuing to allow free movement of EU citizens into the UK, something that is currently regarded as politically contentious. The alternatives, from a Swiss-style bespoke arrangement to a situation with no deal at all, with trade governed by World Trade Organization rules, seem to offer a sliding scale from ‘very negative’ to ‘disastrous’.

A minority, particularly the Economists for Brexit group, argue that leaving the EU will allow the UK to trade freely with the rest of the world and ditch pointless EU regulations, with the prospect of a revival in economic growth as a result.

But when it comes to future prosperity, is there too much focus on the UK’s status within Europe? A week after the vote, the government reported another damning set of current account statistics, confirming how much more Britain imports than exports. The government finances still look weak and there is an ongoing and anguished debate about the poor productivity of the economy. George Osborne’s declared aim of ‘rebalancing’ the economy, both between North and South, and towards manufacturing, seem to have come to nought. And the economies of the Eurozone hardly seem in the best of health, either, with the only question seemingly where the next crisis will hit. Greece? Italy? Perhaps even France?

So what does the future hold? What kind of deal should the UK aim to strike with the EU? While we fret about Europe, should we really be worrying about problems closer to home?


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, founder of the sciences of man

July 22, 2016

Ahead of this weekend's Institute of Ideas Academy in Bedfordshire listen to this plenary lecture on Jean-Jacques Rousseau from our 2013 lecture archive.