Professor Stephen Farrall on Generation Right and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher

October 24, 2017

Stephen Farrall, professor of criminology in the Centre for Criminological Research at the School of Law, University of Sheffield, talks to Rob Lyons about his film Generation Right, which looks at the election of Margaret Thatcher and her subsequent policies, particularly in relation to crime and criminal justice policy.

Stephen notes how Thatcher's economic policies - in particular, the way they created mass unemployment and drove down welfare provision - led to an increase in crime. Yet she remained popular for aspirational members of the working class. He also discusses how it was subsequent administrations who really got 'tough on crime', for example in relation to sentencing, and whether we can still talk about 'Generation Right' since the rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

The film screening and debate, GENERATION RIGHT – THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER, takes place at the Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican in London on Sunday 29 October at 2pm. Visit the Battle of Ideas website for more details.


Battle Cry: Jamie Bartlett on the reaction against Silicon Valley

October 18, 2017

Jamie Bartlett is the director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos, where he specialises in online social movements, the impact of technology on society, and new big data research methods. He is also author of the best-selling book The Dark Net (2014) about internet subcultures and Radicals (2017) about fringe political movements. Earlier this year he presented the BBC series The Secrets of Silicon Valley.

In this podcast, Jamie talks to Max Sanderson about why Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have come in for increasing criticism recently, what impact the rise of data as the 'new oil' has had and to what extent the reaction against Silicon Valley is justified.

Jamie is speaking in the session Silicon Valley: From heroes to zeroes? at the Battle of Ideas festival at The Barbican in London on 29 October 2017.


Battle Cry: Joanna Williams on contemporary feminism

October 12, 2017

Feminists routinely argue that women remain disadvantaged in society. But as Joanna Williams argues in her new book, Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars, this is now rarely the case in the UK. In fact, as she explains to Max Sanderson, by emphasising vulnerability, contemporary feminism actually perpetuates some out-dated notions about women and moves us further away from equality and liberation.

Joanna is speaking in the session Women versus Feminism: do we all need liberating from the gender wars? at the Battle of Ideas festival at The Barbican in London on 28 October 2017.

Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars was published by Emerald on 10 October 2017.


Podcast of Ideas: Battle of Ideas preview

October 5, 2017

Claire Fox, Rob Lyons and Adam Rawcliffe look ahead to the Battle of Ideas 2017 at The Barbican in London, pulling out some personal highlights from the 100+ debates taking place over the festival weekend - from populism and cultural appropriation to the end of globalisation and street art.


Battle Cry: Professor Tim Ingold on evolutionary psychology

September 27, 2017

The furore around a memo written by Google engineer James Damore, which argued that the relative paucity of female engineers could be explained in part by biology, brought the field of evolutionary psychology (EP) to wider public attention. EP seeks to identify the psychological traits that were adaptive in our evolution, forming part of ‘human nature’, and has been used to explain everything from gender differences to our propensity to eat unhealthy food. But critics argue EP is reductive and dehumanising. Should we reject an evolutionary perspective simply because it throws up some uncomfortable conclusions? Can evolution really explain modern psychology when culture and language appear to be changing at an unprecedented rate?

In this edition of Battle Cry, Max Sanderson talks to Professor Tim Ingold, who offers a critical analysis of evolutionary psychology. Professor Ingold will be speaking at the debate From gender to empathy: what can evolutionary psychology tell us? at the Battle of Ideas 2017 on 28 & 29 October at the Barbican in London.


Battle Cry: Cathy Young on the rise of the alt-right

September 20, 2017

Cathy Young, contributing editor at Reason magazine and columnist for Newsday, talks to Max Sanderson about the recent political phenomenon of the alt-right. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why has the alt-right become popular and what does it stand for?


Who do you think you are? Autonomy, authenticity and the emergence of identity politics

September 1, 2017

A lecture by Dr Tim Black at the Institute of Ideas event The Academy 2017.

Authenticity has become one of the defining ideals of the modern world. It is the quality we are meant to demand in that which we consume; a value to be opposed to all that is ‘fake’, or ‘phoney’, or ‘artificial’. Above all, it is what an individual is meant to aspire to be - true to one’s self, self-actualising, self-expressing. Authenticity today has an almost ethical force. It underpins identity politics, legitimises transgenderism, and informs the ubiquitous demand for often legal recognition and informal respect. But what does its elevation say about the condition of modernity? What is its historical and conceptual relationship to ideas of freedom and autonomy? And to what extent is it really possible or even desirable, as Shakespeare’s Polonius insisted it was, to be true to thine own self?


From Islamic State to Oxford: a monumental war on the past?

August 18, 2017

With the furores this week over statues, we are republishing this debate from Battle of Ideas 2015.

The Islamic State’s attacks on antiquities in Iraq and Syria have caused outrage worldwide. The systematic destruction of ancient archaeological ruins at Nimrud and Palmyra, artefacts at the museum of Mosul, early Christian churches and sacred Shia sites has raised almost as much ire internationally as IS’s barbaric execution of prisoners. Some have even suggested that attacks on cultural artefacts justify increased Western military intervention.

The phenomenon has been widely attributed to IS’s strict Islamist doctrine and broad interpretation of what constitutes idolatry. Many have drawn parallels with similar acts of destruction by other Islamic fundamentalists, like the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001 and the torching of large collections of fifteenth century manuscripts by Malian Islamists in Timbuktu in 2013. 

Others have compared IS’s actions to the Christian destruction of idolatry in the Byzantine and Reformation periods, but IS’s war on the culture of the past seems driven by more than religious iconoclasm. Like the brutal beheadings and immolation of prisoners, the destruction of antiquities is designed to shock the West’s sensibilities while proving IS’s barbaric credentials. Destroying the vestiges of past cultures is a way of making a statement about the world IS would like forge. 

Understandably, the destruction of irreplaceable relics from early civilizations inspires a special kind of indignation. Yet when contemporary societies try to expunge the past of things of which they disapprove, they face less criticism. This year, South Africa has seen campaigns and vandalism aimed at ridding the country of public symbols of its colonial past, notably statues of Cecil Rhodes and Queen Victoria. The campaign spread to Oxford University in the UK with students demanding the removal of a statues and portraits of Rhodes and former slave holders like Christopher Codrington. Elsewhere in the UK, there is increasing reticence about museum collections acquired during colonial adventures, notably that of the British Museum. While in Ukraine, the Kiev government has ordered the destruction of all Soviet-era statues.

Is it a distortion to compare efforts in other countries to rid themselves of icons of colonialism, prejudice and unhealthy habits with IS’s war on civilisation itself? Or do we need to take a stand for preserving the relics of humanity’s past culture in all contexts, whether it makes us uncomfortable or not? Is it problematic that some seem more upset by the destruction of inanimate objects than murders carried out by the ISIS regime?  Does IS’s actions warrant military intervention or the formation of a transnational organisation to protect ancient cultural relics from destruction? What should be done?

Julian Baggini
founding editor, the Philosophers' Magazine; author, Freedom Regained: the possibility of free will and The Ego Trick
Robert Bevan
writer; heritage consultant; architecture critic for the London Evening Standard; author, The Destruction of Memory: architecture at war
Dr Tiffany Jenkins
academic, columnist, author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there
Dr Sean Lang
senior lecturer in history, Anglia Ruskin University; director, Better History Forum
Rossa Minogue
resources editor, Institute of Ideas

Narcissism and identity-determinism

August 11, 2017

A lecture by Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, at The Academy 2017.

Narcissism is now - according to the New York Times - 'the go-to diagnosis' for commentators. Why has cultural narcissism become so deeply woven into the fabric of contemporary society? Why has individualistic self-preoccupation with identity become dominant at the very time when individual autonomy and agency are so weak? Are there any positive aspects in constructing Brand Me and a ‘Narrative of Self’ in terms of reclaiming subjective selfhood? Is narcissism too clichéd a concept to help us understand today’s crisis of identity?


Podcast of Ideas - 3 August 2017

August 3, 2017

Adam Rawcliffe is joined by Claire Fox, Izzy Lyons and Rob Lyons to discuss the news of the past two weeks.

As Anthony Scaramucci leaves the White House after just 10 days, what on earth is going on inside the Trump administration? What are the pros and cons of Justine Greening's proposals on self-determination of gender identity? What should we make of the row over pay at the BBC? With public disagreements on what leaving the EU should mean and how long any transitional phase should last, is Brexit itself under threat?