There were two narratives that emerged in the week before we locked down on 23rd March that could go some way to explaining why the UK was relatively slow to lockdown. One was the idea of “herd immunity” - that the virus was always going to spread throughout the population to some extent, and that should be allowed to happen to build up immunity.
That theory may have been based on a misunderstanding of how this particular virus behaved.
The second narrative was based on the idea of...
As Covid-19 forced humans into lockdown, memes emerged showing the earth was healing thanks to our absence. These were false claims – but their popularity revealed how seductive the dangerous idea that ‘we are the virus’ can be.
At its most extreme, this way of thinking leads to eco-fascism, the belief the harm humans do to Earth can be reduced by cutting the number of non-white people.
But the mainstream green movement is also challenged by a less hateful form of this mentality known as...
"The origin of civil government," wrote the Scottish philosopher David Hume in 1739, is that "men are not able radically to cure, either in themselves or others, that narrowness of soul, which makes them prefer the present to the remote."
Today, Hume's view that governments can help societies abandon rampant short-termism and adopt a more long term approach, feels little more than wishful thinking. The "now" commands more and more of our attention - quick fixes are the order of the day....
Government intervention on an unprecedented scale has propped up the British economy - and society at large - during the pandemic. But what should be the state's role from now on? Can Conservatives successfully embrace an enduring central role for government in the economy given their small-state, Thatcherite heritage championing the role of the individual, lower spending and lower taxes? And can Labour, instinctively keener on a more active state, discipline its impulses towards more...
Wellness is easy to lampoon. A vast, trillion-dollar industry, at its worst it offers bogus cures, prescribing over-priced paraphernalia and dubious advice for ailments that might be treated elsewhere.
But there is a forgotten political and philosophical history of self-care, taking in the Black Panthers and feminist activism, that is all too often erased from our understanding of wellness.
Shahidha Bari looks at the radical roots of self-care and what it tells us about how we are...
More time and money is being spent on children than ever before. And it's a global trend. Professor Tina Miller, who has studied how parenting styles have changed over several decades, considers what this investment in our sons and daughters tells us about the modern world. She considers whether the gold standard of educational achievement goes hand in hand with rising inequality and individualism. What might the unintended consequences be and how difficult is it for parents to opt out?...
What does the way in which rival political systems around the world have managed the Covid-19 pandemic tell us about the global political future?
Writer and broadcaster, John Kampfner, considers what has made a "good leader" during the months of the outbreak and how that is likely to affect the vitality and long-term future of individual regimes. Are today's authoritarians - often savvier and subtler than their twentieth century counterparts - becoming more confident and optimistic? Is this...
Before Covid-19 hit, the latest research showed we were more polarised than ever. We broadly agree on the issues - it's the emotions where things get tricky. If someone is part of the other tribe then we want little to do with them.
And the more polarised we are, the more prone we are to what philosophers call 'knowledge resistance' - rejecting information that doesn't fit our worldview.
If we're in a situation where identity trumps truth, is there anything that can pull us back to...
The episode "tore society apart, divided families, and split the country into two enemy camps, which then attacked each other …”
A description by some future historian looking back at Britain after Brexit? No - it is how the late French President Jacques Chirac described the so-called “Dreyfus Affair”, which shook France from top to bottom a century ago.
Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer who was convicted on false charges of passing military secrets to the Germans. He spent several...
Barack Obama condemned it. Black American activists championed it. Meghan Markle brought it to the Royal Family. “Wokeness” has become a shorthand for one side of the culture wars, popularising concepts like “white privilege” and “trigger warnings” - and the idea that “language is violence”.
Journalist Helen Lewis is on a mission to uncover the roots of this social phenomenon. On her way she meets three authors who in 2017 hoaxed a series of academic journals with fake papers on dog rape,...
When Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer in February rather than accept Boris Johnson's reported demand that he dismiss his own team of special advisers and accept a new one drawn up in 10 Downing Street, many saw the episode as a crude attempt by the Prime Minister to wrest control of economic policy from the Treasury. But would such a reform necessarily be a bad thing?
Edward Stourton considers the case for economic policy being driven from the very top of government. If...
Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies explores what the world of work can tells us about inequality and why some towns and cities feel left behind. He finds England is one of the most regionally unequal economies in the developed world.
He looks at the differences in wages and opportunities across the county and seeks to understand why this has created areas where people struggle to find well paid work.
This edition of the programme includes interviews with:
If you want to understand the global reach of a rising China, visit Vancouver. Canada has been sucked in to an intractable dispute between the US and China after the arrest on an American warrant of Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Beijing’s furious response caught Canada off guard. Two Canadians have been detained in China – seemingly in response, precipitating an acute foreign policy crisis. Canadian journalist Neal Razzell examines what could be the first...
If the future of politics must include tackling climate change, it holds that the future should be bright for the Greens. In parts of Europe, their influence is growing. In Germany the Green Party is enjoying unprecedented support. But in the UK there’s only ever been one Green MP and the party won just 2.7 per cent of the vote in last year's election. In this edition of Analysis, Rosie Campbell, Professor of Politics and Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at Kings...
In a poll last year, two thirds of people suggested that Britain’s exit from the EU was negatively affecting the nation’s mental health. But is that really about customs unions and widget regulations, or is it a more a product of how we think about politics? James Tilley, a professor of politics at Oxford, finds out how our distorted ways of thinking create emotional reactions to politics and how those emotions affect what we do politically.
The government spends billions on free early years education. The theory goes that this is good for children, their parents and society as a whole. But does the evidence stack up? Despite the policy's lofty intentions, Professor Alison Wolf discovers that the results aren’t at all what anyone expected.
Steven Barnett - National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University
Christine Farquharson - Institute for Fiscal Studies
Liz Roberts - Nursery World...
The NHS has a unique resource - data. David Edmonds asks whether a combination of data and Artificial Intelligence will transform the future of the NHS. The programme features among others Sir John Bell, who leads the government’s life-sciences industrial strategy and Matthew Gould chief executive of NHSx, the unit set up to lead the NHS's digital transformation. As the NHS tries to exploit its data, the programme raises the danger that data may be flogged off to the private sector at...
When you buy your trainers, do you want to make a political statement? Businesses want to attract consumers by advertising their commitment to liberal causes like diversity and tackling climate change. It is a phenomenon known as woke capitalism. But is it a welcome sign that multinationals are becoming socially responsible? Or is it just the latest trick by business to persuade us to part with our cash, and a smokescreen to disguise the reluctance of many companies to pay their fair share...
NATO’s military strength and unswerving trans-Atlantic solidarity enabled it to contain and ultimately defeat the Soviet Union. But with Vladimir Putin’s Russia resurgent, and eager to restore some of its past glory, people speak of a new “Cold War”. But this one is very different from the first. It is being fought out on the internet; through propaganda; and by shadowy, deniable operations. It is not the kind of struggle that plays to the Alliance’s traditional strengths. Worse still, NATO...
Barely a day passes when an MP doesn’t reach for an historical analogy to help explain contemporary events. But to what extent do the Battle of Agincourt and World War II really help us better understand what’s happening now? Edward Stourton asks if there is a danger that some politicians might have misunderstood some of the best known moments in Britain’s history?
Professor David Abulafia (Emeritus, University of Cambridge)
Professor Anne Curry (Emeritus, University of...
There’s a widespread belief that there’s no point talking to people you disagree with because they will never change their minds. Everyone is too polarized and attempts to discuss will merely result in greater polarization. But the history of the world is defined by changes of mind –that’s how progress (or even regress) is made: shifts in political, cultural, scientific beliefs and paradigms. So how do we ever change our minds about something? What are the perspectives that foster...
When the steelworks at Redcar went bust in 2015 the government said it couldn’t bail out the company that ran the plant because of the EU’s state aid rules, which regulate how much money the government can give to businesses and industry. 1700 jobs were lost in the North East of England, which has the highest unemployment rate in the UK. Voices on the left and right say the state aid rules are holding Britain back from supporting its industry. Are they right? Does Brexit give Britain the...
Democracy flourishes where information is free flowing and abundant, so the logic goes.
In the West the choice of information is limitless in a marketplace of ideas. While authoritarian regimes censor by constricting the flow of information.
But even in the West a new pattern of control is emerging. And this free flow of information, rather than liberate us, is used to crowd out dissent and subvert the marketplace of ideas.
Peter Pomerantsev examines how the assumptions that...
How should museums deal with contentious legacies?
Two years since the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for the restitution of objects taken at the height of Europe’s empires, some French and Dutch museums have started the process to hand back some artefacts. However, most of the UK’s main institutions remain reluctant.
Should we empty our museums to make amends for our colonial past? In this edition of Analysis, David Baker speaks to people on all sides of the argument to get...