Fields

In memoriam

Professor George Wedell

We are mourning of the loss of Eberhard Georg (George) Wedell, a child refugee from Nazi-Germany who became an LSE student and dedicated his entire life to promote interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural communication.

 Wedell’s grandfather was the Chief Rabbi of Hanover but his father had converted to Protestantism in 1914.  His godfather  was the renowned Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) whose statue is now carved onto the west front of Westminster Abbey as one of the martyrs of the twentieth century.  Wedell and his family were viewed by the Nazis as “Mischlings”, tainted by their Jewish origins.  He had childhood memories of Kristallnacht and was brought to England at the age of 11 with his mother and brothers in 1938. Their escape was secured by the cooperation of George Bell (1883 –1958), then Bishop of Chichester.

 Scholarship at LSE

After schooling in Kent, Wedell came to the LSE in 1944, studying first in its evacuated home of Peterhouse in Cambridge and then on Houghton Street after the war ended. He was given a free scholarship and described by his advisor of studies as “an exemplary sincere, high-minded and intelligent man”, “a very good worker who seems certain to make a mark in the world.” While at LSE, Wedell was president of the Student Christian Movement, a significant force at the time for ecumenical cooperation and reconciliation across the world. On graduation, he worked full time for the movement, reflecting his lifelong commitment to the practical expression of faith. Wedell and his wife Rosemarie (1920-2010) also developed an active interest in interfaith dialogue, a cause which he continued to support within the LSE.

Distinguished career in communication and education

The twin spheres of education and broadcasting have fed into one another throughout Wedell’s career. In 1950 he became a civil servant working in the Department of Education, but moved in 1958 to be Secretary of the newly created Independent Television Authority. His creative mind and commitment to the ideals of independent public service broadcasting led to a move into academia, taking the Chair of Adult Education at the University of Manchester. Both adult education and media were new disciplines at this time and Wedell dramatically expanded research in both fields, encompassing higher education, social development, broadcasting policy and regulation of advertising. His first book of 1968, Broadcasting and Public Policy, was groundbreaking and took him all around the world lecturing and advising governments on both broadcasting and education. He had a particular interest in the developing world, reflected in publications such as Education and the Development of Malawi (1973) and Broadcasting in the Third World (1977, with Elihu Katz).

Commitment to Europe

In 1973 Wedell  transferred to Brussels where he headed up the European Commission division for employment and retraining. He became a prominent figure within the Commission and after he left, to return to the University of Manchester, in 1982 he founded the European Institute for Media (EIM) of which he became director. In this post Wedell drew scholars from this emerging discipline together and contributed significant research to the field. Consonant with Wedell’s ’s ideals, the EIM was not merely a centre of academic research but a driver for the positive role of media in social change, particularly the democratization of former communist countries in which Wedell was significantly involved.

Honorary doctorate from LSE

Wedell received numerous awards and accolades in his lifetime. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and a Commander of the Order of Merit in Portugal. Wedell received an honorary doctorate from LSE in 2017. The LSE was a safe haven where a young German refugee was able to develop his extraordinary intellectual potential and passion to improve the world around him. His lifelong commitment to communication, education, development international cooperation and Europe helped to fashion a world where the horrors of his childhood hopefully are less likely to recur.  His accomplished life and noble legacy have brought distinction to LSE and his life and work exemplify our ideals.

James Walters, Director, LSE Faith Centre.

with

Terhi Rantanen, Professor of Global Media and Communications

Professor Mark Poster

The Department of Media and Communications was deeply saddened to learn that Professor Mark Poster, University of California, Irvine, died on 11 October 2012. He was LSE Centennial  Professor in the Department for three years until 2008, always leading faculty into new debates and enormously stimulating exchanges about how we understand the media. 

His colleagues circulated this tribute:

It is with immense sadness that we share the news that our dear colleague Mark Poster, Emeritus Professor of History and Film & Media Studies, passed away in the hospital earlier this morning. Mark Poster was a vital member of the School of Humanities, and for decades one of its most widely read and cited researchers. He made crucial contributions to two different departments, History and Film & Media Studies, and played a central role in UCI's emergence as a leading center for work in Critical Theory.

In the first part of his career, when his focus was on modern European intellectual history, his path-breaking publications included the influential book *Existential Marxism in Postwar France* (Princeton University Press 1975), a study of the intellectual world around Jean-Paul Sartre. When the theory boom hit the U.S., thanks in part to this book, he became a widely sought-after authority on French critical thought, especially the writing of Michel Foucault, whose work he helped introduce to American audiences. He played a crucial role in setting the History Department on its current course, as one of the first departments--if not the first department--in the discipline with a required graduate sequence in theory. In that sequence Mark taught a Foucault seminar that became legendary.

His investments in French intellectual history also positioned Mark Poster for crucial contributions to the Critical Theory Institute at UC Irvine, which he helped start as an informal reading group; by 1987 it was established as a campus research institute. The distinction of Irvine, reflected in the CTI, the graduate emphasis, the Critical Theory Archive, and departmental strengths, still defines the special character of the School, and contributes to its international reputation for scholarly innovation. Hosting internationally known scholars, the Critical Theory Institute with its public seminars and Wellek lecture series soon became one of the global hotspots in the humanities.

In the second part of his career, Mark became a seminal theorist of media and technology. He was the founding chair of the Department of Film & Media Studies at UC Irvine. Together with Franco Tonelli and Eric Rentschler, he had helped shepherd the Film Emphasis of the early 1980s to Program status by the end of that decade, and then to departmentalization by 2002. In the process he was pivotal in hiring and mentoring faculty who now serve the School's second largest major.

Mark Poster was a major figure in the rapid development of media studies and theory in the USA and internationally. While as an intellectual historian he could draw on Frankfurt School thought as well as on cybernetics, he was particularly interested in the potential of poststructuralism for media studies. From his translations of Baudrillard to his dissemination of Foucault, Poster played a highly influential role in the study of media culture, including television, databases, computing, and the Internet; he continued to offer crucial commentary on the relevance to technology and media of cultural theory, and his numerous articles and books have been translated into a number of different languages. Reflective of the breadth of his interests and expertise, Poster held courtesy appointments in the Department of Information and Computer Science and in the Department of Comparative Literature. First hired at UCI in 1968, Poster had recently retired after 40 years of service to  the School and the Campus.

Philip, Baron Gould of Brookwood

By Dr Maggie Scammell

I first met Philip shortly after the 1987 election at which Labour had been hammered for the third time in succession. I was writing my PhD and Philip agreed to an interview. We met in what I hazily recall as a rabbit warren type office in Soho, I think. My first memory of him is almost the same as my last; he was bristling with nervous energy, generous with his time, eager to explain his work for Labour, and impatient for change. 

Philip was one of the first and one of the few professional political consultants in the UK. He always hated it when I called him a "political marketer"; he said his job was all about connection, linking the Labour Party and its leaders to ordinary people. He believed that the Left too often lagged behind the Right in the arts of campaigning and he was passionate about sharing his knowledge in the hope of creating a new cadre of skilled progressive campaigners.

He jumped at the chance when I invited him to give some guest lectures on my Political Communication course. But it was nowhere near enough for him. He became visiting professor at the LSE and ran a series of lectures bringing in such as Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Stanley Greenberg (Bill Clinton's pollster) and then he set up his own MSc course, Modern Campaigning Politics.

Philip certainly connected with the LSE. He told me on several occasions that he much preferred classes with our students to those at Oxford; the LSE students were more grounded, more real-world, he felt. And, something that I liked so much about him, he loved it when the students gave him a hard time. "There were a few questions there that I couldn't really answer", he'd say, delighted and invigorated, and with an eye for likely interns. He'd been a Masters student here himself, and was hugely influenced by Michael Oakeshott. He'd introduce his lectures with a quote from Oakeshott, that the art of politics was like sailing in a boundless, bottomless sea. It was one of Philip's mantras; politics was a "flow", constantly changing. Yesterday's strengths are tomorrow's weaknesses, and so Labour had to be in a state of permanent adjustment, from New Labour to new New Labour to mature new Labour and so on.

He was a self-confessed political nutcase and probably he needed to be at time when his marketing skills were often derided in his party. His persistence was extraordinary and his memo-writing legendary, constantly warning Labour about dangers to its "brand". It was the type of language that grated horribly for party traditionalists. He was part of the group John Prescott once dismissed as the "beautiful people", and Prescott again after yet another leaked Gould memo declared that "all that glitters is not Gould".

Yet, there is no doubting that Gould was one of the select few who created New Labour. "There has been no figure quite like him in British politics," according to Tony Blair's biographer, Anthony Seldon. "He is more than just a pollster who provides research: he is a tireless proselytizer for what that research means. He inspired and encouraged Labour's change from a doctrine/tradition driven party to a values/market-driven one. A political advertising man has taken the place of generations of socialist philosophers."

The more I got to know Philip the more I liked him. He was genuinely kind and instinctively on the side of the little guy. He could be deliciously gossipy on occasion and let students feel they were being let into a secret political world. He made politics real and human. He could be disarmingly self-deprecatory, both about himself and New Labour. I always felt at ease with Philip; he never swanked his status, either as a peer of the realm or as one of the world's leading political consultants. He felt like a good friend although we only ever saw each other professionally. His death is a huge loss.

Dr Maggie Scammell

7 November 2011