The end result sometimes generates more heat than light. This is a serious problem in an era when the most pressing challenges before us, be it climate change or international migration, can only be solved to the extent we also reckon effectively with the inequality in which they are set. In this lecture, rather than ask how political thought can illuminate inequality, I shall therefore take the opposite approach, and explore some of the ways in which inequality illuminates the history of political thought. To do this I will examine how global inequality has been understood in different times and different places, and end with the question: whose inequality gets to count?
I’ll be speaking at an interdisciplinary conference organised by Martin Conway (Oxford), Luiza Bialasiewicz (Amsterdam) and Camilo Erlichman (Leiden) on the history of positive peace:
Re-imagining peace through Social Justice in mid-late 20th century Europe
Efforts to define and pursue a vision of “peace” in Europe have both a political and intellectual history and have long been central to the socio-economic and geopolitical development of the continent (Stråth, 2016). In mid-late twentieth century, however, Scandinavian advocates for peace merged their pacifism with the sociological imaginary of the time to reimagine peace in a globalising present. Peace was now to be understood not simply as the absence of conflict (‘negative peace’) but as a form of social justice (‘positive peace’) writ large (Galtung, 1964;1969). Over the course of two and a half decades, between approximately the late 1950s and the early 1980s, visions of positive peace provided a key vocabulary and arena of public and political deliberation within which ideas about social justice played out in relation to the law, to new forms of socialisation, and even to such considerations as the morality of economic sanctions (Wiberg, 1981). Situated very much within, but also against, the prevailing Cold War intellectual landscape, the attempt to define and mobilise a vision of positive peace during these middle decades saw positive peace variously institutionalised and elaborated across the continent: through the founding of peace “institutes”, such as PRIO (1959) in Norway and SIPRI (1966) in Sweden; through the publication and reception across the continent of peace journals; through the development of social networks (laying a foundation for later European peace movements, such as END); and through the dissemination of new popular philosophies regarding culture and the environment and (non-Western) ‘cosmologies’. Through each of these channels, positive peace mingled with emergent notions and understandings of society. In particular, ideas about positive peace were influenced by a new discourse of structural violence and, in key respects, they took shape within the social and political parameters of Scandinavian social democracy. Equally they took shape at the increasingly fluid intersection of national and international politics, such that there was a scalar as well as an intellectual politics at work here: the more radical (if not utopian) visions that resulted, not only demonstrating an openness to ideas coming from the global South, but frequently providing willing conduits for it (Bonisch, 1981; cf. Moyn, 2010).
I’ll be speaking on the parallel histories of accounts of injustice and inequality in a lecture and debate with Katrin Flikschuh and Michael Goodheart in London. For more information and to attend: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/confronting-injustice-critical-and-realistic-approaches-to-global-inequality-tickets-60744848477
Stuart Elden has written a wonderful book for an English speaking audience on Georges Canguilhem, historian, philosopher of science, and author - most famously - of The Normal and the Pathological. A philosopher of history too, Canguilhem’s discussions of truth, knowledge and ideology are well worth re-apprising in the contemporary moment. CRASSH provides an appropriately interdisciplinary forum for the occasion.
Stefan Collini is one of our most insightful commentators on the state of the state of the academy and its role in public life. I’ll be joining in a roundtable co-hosted by Norwegian Academy of Sciences in advance of a public lecture by Prof. Collini in the afternoon.
Simon will be one of the speakers at a symposium organised by Eric Heinze (Professor of Law at QMUL and author of Injustice) in association with the Centre for Law, Democracy and Society on the history, politics and status of free speech in democracies.
Simon will be presenting the awards at KEGS in chelmsford to returning university students and prizewinners across the school.
Simon is invited to the Agence Francaise de Développement to discuss his work on inequality as part of the two-day event at Le Mistral and the Instutute du monde arabe. More information here: https://www.afd.fr/en/international-conference-inequality-and-social-cohesion-2018
Simon will be responding to the launch of the new International Panel on Social Progress Report at the House of Lords in Westminster. Lord Meghnad Desai will begin the program and moderate the discussions. Panelists will include IPSP authors Marc Fleurbaey (Steering Committee), Marie-Laure Djelic (Steering Committee), Richard Bellamy, Graham Smith, Gianluca Grimalda, Simon Deakin, Lorraine Talbot and Simon Reid-Henry.
Simon will be speaking to the School of Law at QMUL on his recent work on John Rawls, Judith Shklar, and "political minimalism”. The event is chaired by Professor Neve Gordon.
Syria is dying, the International Criminal Court is collapsing and the era of Brexit and Trump-ism is looming: What is our proper role as researchers in the public debate?