What Kind of Liberal Society Do We Want? : Theos Annual Lecture 2017 full text

Dec 4, 2017 by

by Tim Farron, Theos:

There was an indie band in the 80s and 90s called Pop Will Eat Itself. The name of the band is a fascinating hypothesis and one for a different lecture for a different think tank…and indeed one that I would absolutely love to give. But my hypothesis today is that in this country and across the world, Liberalism will eat itself. Is eating itself. May already have eaten itself.

Why? Because if you say you favour diversity and pluralism, then you must oppose all attempts at assimilation and forced conformity. You may like the idea that people will think the same as you, but you must not aim to build a society where you engineer that via legal or social pressure. And it is especially on this this latter point that liberalism is at risk.

John Stuart Mill is the father of modern liberalism. He spoke of many threats to liberty. Amongst the greatest that he identified, is the tyranny of opinion. In ‘on Liberty’, he says the following.

“In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.’

Written in 1859. Spine–tinglingly relevant to 2017.

Read here


Related Posts


Share This