2013-2014 Lecture Series


Nations and Borders


Social Democracy and the Nation after the Crash

Professor Andrew Gamble

17th October 2013

A joint event with Policy Network

"In 1992 after the fall of communism in Europe, Perry Anderson speculated that it would need a new world crisis for socialism to become relevant again. The 2008 financial crash has produced that world crisis but there are few signs as yet of a rebirth of socialism or of the parties and the movements of the left and centre-left. Part of the reason for this is that the Left no longer has very much to say about capitalism or about the national economy. Social democratic parties adjusted to the more global international political economy which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s and achieved some success, becoming advocates of a new cosmopolitanism.

This was accompanied however by a loss of identification with the national economy, and the interests of some of core elements of their traditional support. This has put social democracy at a disadvantage in navigating the politics of austerity, and ceded the initiative to the Centre-Right and to new populist parties. If it is to prosper social democracy has to rethink the politics of the nation, the politics of capitalism, and the politics of the public household."

Andrew Gamble is Head of the department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University, former director of the Political Economy Research Centre and a fellow of the British Academy. He has just published ‘Coming to Terms with Capitalism: Austerity Politics and the Public Household’ in ‘Progressive Politics after the Crash: Governing from the Left’ with the Policy Network. Other notable publications include ‘The Constitutional Revolution in the UK’ (2006), ‘Between Europe and America: The Future of British Politics’ (2005) and ‘Politics and Fate’ (2000).

A podcast of this event is available here.

Is There A Progressive Case For National Identity?Sunder Katwala

3rd December 2013

Can national identity be a positive force? The experience of the First World War entrenched a progressive wariness of patriotism. Yet national identity remains important to most people. Sunder Katwala will examine contemporary British attitudes to issues of identity and integration, as well as issues of immigration and opportunity. He will consider what forms of national identity we want and need today

Sunder Katwala is Director of the immigration and identity think-tank British Future, and a former General Secretary of the Fabian Society.

A podcast of this event is available here.

From Empire to Republic: China's struggle with modernity?

Isabel Hilton

21st January 2014

‘In 1912 the last emperor of China abdicated, leaving behind a country that had doubled in size under the Qing Empire.  The collapse of the Qing set in train more than a century of savage political conflict as the unwieldy former empire struggled to find a modern political form and establish its identity as a nation state.

More than 100 years later, China still has fundamental questions to answer: what does it mean to be Chinese today? Who belongs and who does not? Can a national story be agreed that can bind together one fifth of humanity in a common identity? China is approaching a crossroads on the road to reform: which direction it chooses will affect the whole world.’

Isabel Hilton is a journalist, founder and editor of Chinadialogue, and former editor in Chief of openDemoncracy. Her publications include ‘The Search for the Panchen Lama’ (2000). In 2009 she was appointed an OBE.

A podcast of this event is available here.

Nationalism, Internationalism and Global Sport

Mike Marqusee

5th February 2014

'Why does the partisan choice between Real Madrid and Barcelona affect the identity of millions in North Africa, the Middle East and beyond? How does the India- Pakistan cricket rivalry remain salient in a world of ‘globalised’ sport? Why doesn’t North America enjoy the same sports as the rest of the world?’

Mike Marqusee seeks to explain the phenomena of ‘globalised’ spectator sport through examining its origins.  He argues that the trans-national, trans-cultural tendency, universal rules and theoretically ‘level playing field’ shared by capitalism and sport have joint origins in 18th century England. From here, he looks at the effects of market driven ‘globalised’ spectator sport on identities and loyalties and asks how, despite this, national identity remains salient and, increasingly, financially valuable. He also addresses the issue of American exceptionalism, and how this is reflected in the bifurcation between North American sports and those preferred by the rest of the world. 

Ultimately, he asks if there is a sporting internationalism that can be posed against the corporate globalisation of sport, and what the elements of that might be.

Mike Marqusee is a Journalist and activist. He writes widely on sport, politics and their interaction. He is the former editor of Left-Wing Briefing. He has since published widely on the politics of sport. Notable publications include: ‘War Minus the Shooting: a journey through South Asia during cricket’s World Cup’ (1996), ‘Anyone But England: an outsider looks at English cricket’ (1994) and ‘Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the spirit of the sixties’ (2000).

A podcast of this event is available here.

Battlefield Ethics and Secularisation

Speaker: Dr Giles Fraser
Monday 12th January

The ethics of the British Army have traditionally drawn heavily from Christianity. How then has the British Army dealt with the challenges of secularisation?

Giles Fraser (@gilesfraser) is a Priest, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and Guardian columnist.

Power and Order, Peace and War: Lessons for Asia from 1914-18

Rethinking Secularism: Respect, Domination and the State

Professor Rajeev Bhargava

10th March 2014

It is widely recognized that Political Secularism virtually everywhere in the world is in crisis. It is also acknowledged that to overcome this crisis, secularism needs to be reimagined and reconceptualised.

In this lecture Rajeev Bhargava takes the first steps towards this. He argues that we need to move away from the standard church-state models of secularism and begin to focus instead on secularism as a response to deep religious diversity. He claims that diversity must be understood as enmeshed in power relations and therefore the hidden potential of religion-related domination must be explicitly acknowledged. These two moves enable us to view secularism as a response to two forms of institutionalised religious domination, inter-religious and intra-religious.

This way of conceiving secularism rebukes the charge that secularism is intrinsically anti-religious. Secularism is not against religion; it opposes institutionalised religious domination. Finally, Professor Bhargava argues that this conception entails that a secular state shows critical respect to all religious and philosophical worldviews, possible only when it adopts a policy of Principled Distance towards all of them.

Rajeev Bhargava is the Director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. Previously, he was a Professor at the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and was the head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Delhi. In 2006 he held the Asia Chair at Sciences Po. His publications include ‘Individualism in Social Science’ (1992), ‘What is Political Theory and Why Do We Need It?’ (2010) and ‘The Promise of India’s Secular Democracy’ (2010).

A podcast of this event is available here.


Word Power: Written Constitutions and the Definition of British Borders Since 1787

Professor Linda Colley

13th March 2014

The onset and proliferation of new written constitutions after 1787 presented successive governments in the UK with both opportunities and challenges. Through its empire and international heft, the UK came to draft and influence more constitutions in more parts of the world in the 19th and 20th centuries than any other power. But governments have always resisted the introduction of a written constitution in the UK itself. Other states need their political systems, identity and liberties confirmed in writing, it has often been argued. But the British do not: and their historic uncodified constitution is thus itself a demonstration and proof of their distinct identity.

In this lecture, Linda Colley examines these trends and tensions over time, and discusses how far writing a constitution might work to reinforce rights in these islands and reconfigure connections.

Linda Colley is the Shelby M.C Davies 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University, and an expert on Britain since 1700. She was the first female fellow of Christ College, Cambridge, was a Professor of History at Yale and was awarded a Senior Leverhulme Research Professorship in History at the London School of Economics. Her book, ‘Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837’ (1992) won the Wolfson Prize for History, and considered the extent to which a British identity was forged in the 18th and early 19th centuries. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and in 2009 was awarded a C.B.E.

A podcast of the event is available here.

Borders and Interests: Should the Workers of the World Unite?

Professor Yuli Tamir

8th May 2014

Under the present economic circumstances the demand to set borders, to favour one's own, is not necessarily driven by irrational forces; rather, it is often a rational demand driven by self-interest, by a desire to protect oneself (and one's children) from the bleak consequences of a global dream one cannot share.

Given the threats embedded in globalism on the one hand, and the growing social and economic gaps within many states on the other, those who belong to the 99% have a lot to worry about. The competition they face is endless and those who exploit them often play the interests of one group of workers against its "class-mates" from across the globe. 

The workers of the world thus have no interest to unite.  It is the upper classes who wish to abolish borders in order to be able to enjoy the best of all possible worlds. The moral question is whether they ought to be permitted to do so. A world without borders may then be the immoral option, a cheap way out for those who do not want to share their wealth with others. Erecting borders excludes non-members but forces all classes to share a risk-pool, distributing benefits and responsibilities. In our non-ideal world that may be the most we can achieve.

Professor Yuli Tamir is an academic, former Israeli politician and author of 'Liberal Nationalism'

A podcast of this event is available here.

England: a Nation Defined by Dissent

Billy Bragg

29th May 2014

Is it possible to be both progressive and patriotic? We on the left are constantly reminded that there are many types of socialism - often competing with one another. Is the same true of patriotism? We’re quick to dismiss such impulses as little more than xenophobia wrapped in pageantry, but could a love of one’s country be a progressive force in society?

Billy Bragg is an English singer-songwriter and left-wing activist. He has been involved in many campaigns on issues such as anti-racism, prison-reform and electoral-reform. His book, ‘The Progressive Patriot' (2006), addresses the tension between progressive politics and national identity.

A podcast of this event is available here.

What Future for Pan-Arabism? The Case of Egypt

Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl

3rd June 2014

Is there a future for pan-Arabism? It had its heyday in the era of decolonisation, nationalisations, and Third World solidarity. Many have argued that it was defeated with the Arab armies in 1967, or that it died finally in 1970, with its champion, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Yet the wave of Arab uprisings that began in December 2010, the manifestations of solidarity, and resonance of concerns and demands between different Arab protesters, seem to fly in the face of such assumptions. This lecture tries to understand why, and to make sense of these signs of a new pan-Arabism in the twenty-first century. It considers the enduring salience of the quest for sovereignty and independence in informing popular commitments to pan-Arabism, focusing on the case of Egypt.

Reem Abou-El-Fadl is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations of the Middle East at Durham University, and co-editor of the Egypt page at jadaliyya.