Cartoon by Jorge Martin from Dahrendorf Symposium

Dahrendorf Forum

The Dahrendorf Forum was a joint initiative between LSE and the Hertie School in Berlin, funded by Stiftung Mercator and honouring the legacy of former LSE Director Lord Ralf Dahrendorf.

To ask all those questions that no one else dares to ask.

Lord Ralf Dahrendorf

In 2010, LSE, the Hertie School and Stiftung Mercator created a joint initiative to honour Lord Dahrendorf’s legacy as a leading sociologist and public intellectual with a passionate commitment to the European idea.

The initiative grew to become the Dahrendorf Forum, a major research and policy engagement network that brought together academics and practitioners to debate and critically reflect upon Europe’s future. The Dahrendorf Forum aimed to address questions about the future of Europe and its role in the world.


The Dahrendorf Forum ran from 2010 to 2020. As part of the project, there were more than 100 publications, 120 events, including 3 Dahrendorf Symposia and several other high-level events in Berlin, London, Brussels, and Washington. Over 80 researchers from Europe and beyond have been involved, dedicating time and offering their expertise to answer the great questions on the future of Europe and its role in the world. 

To access the full range of publications (including reports and working papers), podcasts and previous events from the completed project,

Visit the Dahrendorf Forum website.

Ralf Dahrendorf

The Forum took its name from Ralf Dahrendorf (1929-2009).

Professor Dahrendorf rose to academic fame in post-war Germany as a leading social scientist with a wide range of interests in sociology and political thought. He entered politics in the late 1960s, becoming a Member of the German Bundestag in 1969. In 1970 he became a Commissioner in the European Commission. From 1974 to 1984 he served as Director of the LSE and was appointed to the House of Lords in 1993 as Lord Dahrendorf of Clare Market.

Writing in 1969, Dahrendorf famously defined the role of the public intellectual thus: “to doubt everything that is obvious, to make relative all authority, to ask all those questions that no one else dares to ask”. Whilst throughout his life Dahrendorf was always passionately committed to the European project, he was never blind to its shortcomings and the challenges of integration.

In his work he sought to defy boundaries in academic and policy debates on Europe, questioning the established consensus and highlighting issues that might otherwise be ignored – not for criticism’s sake but in order to move Europe forward. Never before have these principles of critical thinking been so timely or relevant as today as we confront the immense and fundamental challenges currently facing Europe. 

Research Cycles

The project ran in research 'cycles' on different topics, each with multiple working groups of academics and policy practitioners and culminating in a major international symposium.

Fourth cycle, Flagship Events 2019: The future of Europe: Strateegic options for an era of uncertanties

Third cycle, Symposium 2016: Europe and the World - Global Insecurity & Power Shifts (Symposium)

Second cycle, Symposium 2013: Changing the European debate: Focus on Climate Change

First cycle, Symposium 2011: Changing the Debate on Europe: Moving beyond Conventional Wisdoms