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.
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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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?
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.
July 15, 2016
Rob Lyons speaks to architect Austin Williams.
In this week’s Podcast of Ideas architect Austin Williams speaks
to Rob Lyons about China’s remarkably rapid urbanisation in recent
years, and the tension between individual freedom and progress.
July 8, 2016
Few texts have sustained such extensive reference and quotation in Anglo-American politics as JS Mill’s classic.
Mill’s famous ‘Harm Principle’ – that government power may only be
justifiably used to prevent harm to others, not to improve one’s own
good – still provides the ground on which numerous debates around civil
liberties, lifestyle choices, and more recently ‘nudge theory’ are
fought. Moreover, Mill’s rousing defence of the liberty of the press
never ceases to be relevant. Yet it is imperative to understand the aims
and context of On Liberty if Mill’s arguments around press
liberty and the Harm Principle are to be properly understood – as the
endless argumentation about what ‘harm’ means shows.
Attending to the whole of On Liberty, in the spirit of
pursuing knowledge for its own sake, shows these familiar ideas in a new
light. By tackling this canonical work as a whole we gain valuable
insights into Mill’s inspiring defence of personal autonomy, and see
quite how at odds Mill would have been with contemporary political
rhetoric – just as he was in his own time.
professor of the history of political thought, Queen Mary University of London; author, Mill on Nationality
July 1, 2016
listen to this week's public event in London.
Seventeen million people voted to leave the EU last Thursday, an
historically important democratic moment. Yet there are already
attempts to thwart or row back from this decision. Many have signed a
petition urging a second referendum so that voters can give the ‘right
answer’; others threaten the vote with lawyers and bureaucratic
challenges. There is contempt for voters who effectively revolted
against an establishment that told them they should vote Remain. There
seems to be a special brand of bigotry aimed at white working-class
voters, with talk of ‘sewers’, and sections of the electorate being
castigated for their ignorance and xenophobia. Others seek to stir up a
distasteful generational revolt, prompting some younger Remain voters to
turn on anyone over 60 with vicious accusations of selfishness and
This should be a moment that feels pregnant with possibilities,
opening up chances for shaping the future. And yet many feel scared —
genuinely scared. Uncertainty and change can be disconcerting. Democracy
has been revealed as more than a paper exercise: people now know it has
very real consequences.
How should we interpret the vote for Brexit? What should democrats do
to ensure that popular sovereignty is not squandered? How can we best
shape positive developments in future months, and ensure that this
democratic moment is not neutralised?
At this meeting held earlier this week, organised by the Institute of Ideas and spiked, Professor Frank Furedi, author of Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right and Authority: A Sociological History, gives an opening talk and Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas responds. Tom Slater, deputy editor of spiked, introduces and chairs.
June 28, 2016
Rob Lyons, Claire Fox and David Bowden discuss the fallout from the Brexit vote.
In a historic week where the British public voted to leave the European Union, sparking one of the most tumultuous political upheavals in living memory and causing hysteria across the political establishment and the media, Rob Lyons, Claire Fox and David Bowden offer some much needed sane analysis and give their visions of where we should go from here to ensure we build a more democratic, more prosperous and freer Britain.