The Academy: session abstract and readings

Philosophy, Lecture 5: The liberal retreat and the privatisation of the public

Professor Frank Furedi

Since the early twentieth century, liberalism has tended to sublimate its disappointments and anxieties through a critique of the behaviour of the public. The retreat of individualism was most vividly expressed through its rapprochement with the state and its reaction to the behaviour and attitude of the public. Instead of serving as a source of democratic authority, the public was increasingly seen as the target of initiatives of social engineering. The estrangement of liberalism from the public is most vividly captured by its ambivalent attitude towards democracy. This lecture explores the story behind contemporary liberalism’s tendency to trade off popular sovereignty for rights pertaining to the life styles of individuals.


See the Academy 2015 readings page for attendees.

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Battle of Ideas 2018

13 & 14 October 2018, The Barbican, London