Debating politics and ideology at the Battle of Ideas

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Battle of Ideas

The state of ideology and the challenges posed to political activism by a fast-changing world are key themes of the Battle of Ideas, an annual festival organised in London by the Institute of Ideas, taking place this year on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th October 2011 at the Royal College of Art. Over the course of the weekend, more than 2000 people will take part in nearly a hundred different sessions involving hundreds of incisive and thought-provoking speakers.
Sunday 30th October will see a strand of debates entitled Reassessing…Politics looking at contemporary attitudes towards key political movements of the last century, with the global financial crisis seeing conservative governments oust the centre-left from power across Europe and beyond.
The strand will begin with a breakfast banter discussion examining recent radical protests in Civil disobedience or violent criminality?, before two debates look at the future of mass politics by asking whether conservatism and social democracy can survive the 21st century? Meanwhile, activists and thinkers past and present will re-examine the legacy of gay politics and feminism, before attention turns to the apparent resurgence of the far-right across Europe in Rise of European populism: the revenge of politics?
Other debates over the course of the weekend will feature a separate strand looking at the global reaction to the financial crisis and ‘Arab spring’ in The Battle for the World. Here discussions will explore whether activism is being replaced by online‘clicktivism’; and whether Islamophobia is the new racism or liberal angst. As well as this, sessions will also be questioning how strong the belief in the American and European dream is in US and German domestic politics; critiquing coalition thinking around education and social mobility, healthcare and welfare in the ‘Big Society’, and keynote debates will be asking what role tolerance, loyalty and individualism should play in shaping the future.
Speakers over the weekend include: ‘Blue Labour’ architect Dr Maurice Glasman;foreign correspondent and broadcaster Dame Ann Leslie; Hungarian dissident and academic Gaspar Miklos Tamas; 2011 Orwell Prize winner Jenni Russell; sociologist and author Frank Furedi; The Times columnist David Aaronovitch; broadcaster Paul Mason; Guardian columnist Zoe Williams; spiked editor Brendan O’Neill; LSE professor and head of department of government Paul Kelly; journalist Mick Hume; Scotsman critic Joyce McMillan; ConservativeHome co-editor Tim Montgomerie; Chavs author Owen Jones; education advisor Alison Wolf; theBritish Humanist Association’s Andrew Copson and many more!
As BBC World Affairs correspondent Humphrey Hawksley said of speaking at last year’s festival, ‘A superb brainstorming of gritty brinksmanship. Totally mind-stretching and wonderful.’ Fredrick C Harris, professor of political science at Columbia University, said, ‘the Battle of Ideas is a global treasure. Bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers for civil dialogue on an array of topics, the festival is a must-see for those deeply committed to the free exchange of ideas.’
Details of all these sessions can be found here.
There are a limited number of HALF PRICE Student Champion tickets, allowing university students full access to the weekend festival for just £27.50. Click here to purchase discounted tickets. **
Visit to view this year’s entire festival programme, including separate Satellite Events, as well as carefully selected readings for each session, specially commissioned Battle in Print essays on selected themes, and videos of previous years’ sessions.
Alternatively, please phone 0207 269 9220 for more details.

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