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Institute of Ideas
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Censorship and identity: free speech for me, but not for you
13 Nov 2017 @ 10:24 am
How should free speech activists respond to the challenge of identity politics? It no longer seems sufficient to cite the First Amendment, quote JS Mill, or cry academic freedom in trying to thwart assaults on free expression. There was a powerful illustration of this problem recently when protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter gatecrashed an event at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and prevented the invited guest from the American Civil Liberties Union from speaking, chanting ‘the revolution will not uphold the Constitution’ and ‘liberalism is white supremacy’.
Is it time for civil libertarians to adjust their priorities, to ensure that people with ‘protected characteristics’ are given ‘particular respect’, and their views given a veto on what they deem as hate speech? Are those who argue for free speech – no ifs, no buts – too often providing the privileged with a licence to talk over the marginalised, even to incite bigotry? Or is identity politics the new tool of censorship and, if so, how should we respond?
Professor Frank Furedi sociologist and social commentator; author, Populism and the European Culture Wars; previous books include: What’s Happened to the University? and Invitation To Terror and On Tolerance
Nick Gillespie US journalist and commentator; editor in chief, Reason.com and Reason TV, the online and video platforms of Reason magazine
Jodie Ginsberg chief executive, Index on Censorship
Trevor Phillips writer and television producer; founding chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission
Toby Young director, New Schools Network; associate editor, The Spectator; editor, Spectator Life
Professor Stephen Farrall on Generation Right and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher
24 Oct 2017 @ 01:56 am
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
18 Oct 2017 @ 02:23 am
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.
Battle Cry: Joanna Williams on contemporary feminism
12 Oct 2017 @ 02:14 am
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.
Podcast of Ideas: Battle of Ideas preview
5 Oct 2017 @ 05:22 am
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
27 Sep 2017 @ 02:35 am
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?
Battle Cry: Cathy Young on the rise of the alt-right
20 Sep 2017 @ 10:02 am
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
1 Sep 2017 @ 04:27 am
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?
18 Aug 2017 @ 01:04 am
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 TrickRobert 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 thereDr Sean Lang senior lecturer in history, Anglia Ruskin University; director, Better History Forum
Rossa Minogue resources editor, Institute of Ideas
Narcissism and identity-determinism
11 Aug 2017 @ 03:44 am
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?