Academy of Ideas
Tearing up the rule book: the end of the new world order?

Tearing up the rule book: the end of the new world order?

June 7, 2019

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

Since the fall of communism, the dominant narrative around international politics and economics has been that of a stable order defined by liberal, free-market values and agreements. In recent years, faith in the liberal international vision seems to have been shattered. In response to the rise of China and resurgence of Russia, populists across the world, most famously President Trump, have denounced free-trade agreements and collective security arrangements. Are we really moving into a more protectionist world, or will free-trade ideology make a comeback? How will the rise of China and the ‘global south’, alongside the apparent slow decline of the US, change things?

deputy editor, Foreign Policy

PhD researcher on identity politics, Sheffield University; columnist; member, Editorial Working Group, Review of African Political Economy

chair of international relations, University of Bath

lecturer, international politics, University of Leicester

partnerships manager, Academy of Ideas; co-convenor, Living Freedom; organiser, Debating Matters

The moral case for abortion

The moral case for abortion

May 17, 2019

In 2019, over than a dozen US states have either passed or attempted to pass stricter abortion legislation. Georgia's new law bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Alabama's new law would more or less ban abortion entirely. How should those who are pro-choice respond? This Battle of Ideas debate from 2016 remains very relevant.

Original introduction

In her new book, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and a veteran campaigner for abortion rights, sets out the ethical arguments for a woman’s right to choose, drawing on the traditions of sociological thinking and moral philosophy. This discussion will consider the moral and philosophical foundations on which Furedi builds her case. We will also explore the relevance of this approach to the pro-choice cause, particularly the current campaign to decriminalise abortion altogether. Is it moral for women to choose abortion? Should campaigners for abortion focus on issues of health and mental well-being or argue for an absolute right to abortion?


chief executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service; author, The Moral Case for Abortion


journalist and author

reader in social policy, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

president, Catholics for Choice

The crisis of diplomacy in the era of Trump

The crisis of diplomacy in the era of Trump

May 10, 2019

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

Visiting Europe in the summer, President Trump lambasted Germany’s relationship with Russia, took a dig at Theresa May’s Brexit strategy and seemingly sided with Vladimir Putin against America’s own intelligence agencies. The UK’s former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, also famously made numerous diplomatic gaffes. Once diplomacy was regarded as a careful art, furthering national interests through back-channels and coded language, and pursued by highly educated diplomats. But in recent years, politicians have seemed keener to make loud public statements at the expense of cool negotiation. Why do politicians seem to respond to events on the hoof rather than pursuing a long-term strategy? Are they playing with fire?

former foreign correspondent in Moscow, Paris and Washington; special correspondent in China; writer and broadcaster

chair of international relations, University of Bath

senior lecturer in History, Anglia Ruskin University; author, First World War for Dummies

author, The Leaderless Revolution; executive director, Independent Diplomat

Feminism: in conversation with Camille Paglia

Feminism: in conversation with Camille Paglia

May 3, 2019

After three decades teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, there have recently been calls from campus activists for Camille Paglia to be sacked from her post for having 'dangerous' views. Listen to this discussion at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2016, with Paglia in conversation with Claire Fox, and decide for yourself.

Original session introduction

Internationally renowned American social critic Camille Paglia has been called ‘the anti-feminist feminist’. A staunch defender of individual freedom, she has argued against laws prohibiting pornography, drugs and abortion. Describing contemporary feminism as a ‘reactionary reversion’ and ‘a gross betrayal of the radical principles of 1960s counterculture’, she stands firmly on the side of free speech and against political correctness. She has argued that though today’s feminists strike progressive poses, their ideas emanate from an entitled, upper-middle-class point of view. This has led Paglia to become one of the US’s foremost critics of contemporary feminist orthodoxies such as the idea of ‘rape culture’, which she believes stifles women’s autonomy.

Instead, Paglia is keen to stimulate reasoned discussion about some of the most controversial and inflammatory issues dominating campus politics and debates about threats to young women. She is calling such fashionable concepts such as ‘rape culture…a ridiculous term…not helpful in the quest for women’s liberation’. She is associated with a brand of feminism which encourages women to embrace the dangers of being in the world and has argued that the current enthusiasm for things such as compulsory sexual consent classes in colleges illustrates how sex is being policed by ‘drearily puritanical and hopelessly totalitarian regulatory regimes and codes’.


Can we revive Britain’s ‘Rust Belt’?

Can we revive Britain’s ‘Rust Belt’?

April 26, 2019

Listen to the debate from the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

In Brexit Britain, much focus has fallen on the divides that cut across generational, educational and class lines. But increasingly there is a new geographical divide that is taking shape – one where voguish metropolitan regions, prosperous urban centres and university towns contrast starkly with vast swathes of territory now labelled ‘left-behind Britain’. Is it still possible to rejuvenate former ports, market towns, coastal resorts and county towns? Should the focus be economic investment or a social and cultural transformation? Do we need a new urban paradigm, or should we create incentives to save, rebuild and inject new life into these urban areas?

journalist and writer; award-winning author

member of parliament, Don Valley; co-chair, Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group

head of demography, Policy Exchange; author, The Road to Somewhere

writer and researcher specialising in arts and culture policy; co-chair, The Great Debate

associate director, Academy of Ideas; codirector, Future Cities Project

How can we revive UK economic growth?

How can we revive UK economic growth?

April 12, 2019

This is a recording from the Academy of Ideas Economy Forum on Monday 8 April 2019. The session title was ‘How can we revive UK economic growth?’ (…conomic_growth)

The speaker is John Mills, an entrepreneur, economist and author, noted for his writing on Brexit, the Labour Party and the exchange rate. In the political world, he formerly served as chair of Labour Leave, Labour Future, The Pound Campaign and LESC, and co-chair of Business for Britain and Vote Leave. In the business world, he is founder and chairman of consumer goods company John Mills Limited (JML), which exports to over 70 countries around the world.

The topic is based on a recent pamphlet by John Mills which can be downloaded at

Please note, as this is a recording of live public meeting, the audio is at times less than perfect.

Culture: who pays?

Culture: who pays?

April 5, 2019

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018 at The Barbican, London.

Should funding for cultural projects be scaled back in a time of fiscal crisis? As we approach the National Lottery’s 25th anniversary, many are asking questions about where funding for culture should come from. Some anti-austerity campaigners say that new projects like the V&A museum in Dundee, at a cost of £80million, put unnecessary pressure on already stretched budgets. Others argue that a vibrant cultural scene is key to building confidence in communities and creating social cohesion, threatened by visible inequalities in wealth, housing, health and education. What about private funding? Could that compromise artistic freedom? And should we view culture as a luxury or a necessity in a modern-day society?

artist, writer and art critic; author, Culture War: art, identity politics and cultural entryism (forthcoming)

writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

award-winning singer, songwriter, composer and writer

director of learning & engagement, Barbican Centre and Guildhall School of Music & Drama

director, Academy of Ideas;

From robots to UBI: is capitalism digging its own grave?

From robots to UBI: is capitalism digging its own grave?

March 22, 2019

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, a broad political consensus emerged that ‘there is no alternative’ to capitalism, which even the 2008 financial crash did little to disturb. But now things appear to be changing, with support for politicians like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders who call for a new way of organising the economy. A slew of recent books, epitomised by Paul Mason’s Post-Capitalism, argue that technological innovations have opened up ways to transcend capitalism from within. Are we now seeing the arrival of capitalism’s ‘undertaker’ in the shape of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation? Could it be true - is capitalism’s time nearly up?

co-founder, Novara Media; author, Fully Automated Luxury Communism: a manifesto

membership coordinator, education trade association

software developer; editor, economics section, New Socialist

lecturer in sociology, York St John University; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: from new left to Occupy

professorial research associate, SOAS, University of London; author, Basic Income: and how we can make it happen

convenor, Academy of Ideas Economy Forum

Do the right thing? The moral responsibility of the artist

Do the right thing? The moral responsibility of the artist

March 15, 2019

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.’ Oscar Wilde’s view of art as essentially an aesthetic pursuit, one concerned with transcendent beauty and the human condition, has arguably now been superseded. But artists are routinely being ‘called out’ if their work represents minority groups in a light that is perceived as negative. The Globe’s new director, Michelle Terry, has been applauded for using blind casting to combat alleged inequality in the arts. Should art be judged on whether or not it is sending the right message? What are the implications for artists themselves?

staff writer, Netflix’s The Crown; playwright, Rotterdam; comedy writer; director, Sight Gags for Perverts, Shtick and Don’t Bother, They’re Here

award winning television, film and theatre actor

writer and researcher specialising in arts and culture policy; co-chair, The Great Debate

policy offcer, The Runnymede Trust and Race on the Agenda; writer, Guardian, gal-dem

writer and comedian; co-author, Jonathan Pie: Off The Record

From anti-vaxers to Alfie’s army: have we lost faith in medical science?

From anti-vaxers to Alfie’s army: have we lost faith in medical science?

March 1, 2019

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018.

According to the 2017 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, nurses and doctors are the most-trusted people in the UK. But in certain contexts, this trust seems to evaporate. Take the ever-present anti-vaccination (or ‘anti-vax’) movement, the popular reaction when medical professionals decide it is no longer right to try to keep very sick children alive or instances of apparent malpractice have also raised serious public concerns. In these cases, doctors are regarded with suspicion rather than trust. What role does something like ‘fake news’ play in polarising these debates? Given the overwhelming scientific consensus about the merits of vaccines, is the ‘anti-vax’ movement simply anti-science, or even anti-intellectual? Or is it healthy to have more sceptical intellectual currents to hold the scientific establishment to account? And when it comes to controversial end-of-life decisions, are they simply about emotion versus reason, or are there important points of principle that need to be considered and debated between doctor, patient, and family?

PhD candidate, health psychology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

General practitioner; writer on medicine and politics; author, MMR and Autism: what parents need to know and The Tyranny of Health

Medical director, NHS Practitioner Health Programme; former chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

Senior lecturer in American history, University of Sunderland; author, Assisted Suicide: the liberal, humanist case against legalization and The Second Amendment and Gun Control: freedom, fear, and the American constitution

Audio producer, Guardian