Maandag 26 november, 20h00
• Aula Minderbroedersberg 4-6
• Free entrance
• Prof. Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent
We live in a society that is very tolerant. It is one of the virtues of the developed nations that always come up. But where tolerance was once about opening the mind to competing beliefs and ideas and exchange views , it has moved into meanings of nonjudgmentalism, even indifference. Frank Furedi will argue that in our enthusiasm for tolerance, we have actually become a deeply intolerant culture.
Outwardly, we live in an era that appears more open-minded and tolerant than in any time in human history. The very term "intolerant" invokes moral condemnation. We are constantly reminded to understand the importance of respecting different cultures and diversities.
Frank Furedi argues that despite the apparent democratisation of public life, society is dominated by a culture that not only tolerates but often encourages intolerance. Often the intolerance is directed at people who refuse to accept the conventional wisdom and who are stigmatised as "deniers". Frequently intolerance comes into its own in clashes over cultural values and lifestyles. People are condemned for the food they eat, how they parent, and for wearing religious symbols in public.
This lecture teases out the motives and drivers of contemporary intolerance, and argues that the willingness to make judgements and to tolerate dissent is the essential precondition for freedom and moral independence.
Frank Furedi (born 1947, in Budapest, Hungary) is a respected UK-based sociologist, author and media commentator. He professor of sociology at the University of Kent. He is well known for his work on sociology of fear, therapy culture, paranoid parenting and sociology of knowledge. He is, according to research, the most widely cited sociologist in the UK press.
He wrote many books: Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation (1997); Paranoid Parenting: Abandon Your Anxieties and Be a Good Parent(2001); The Politics of Fear. Beyond Left and Right (2005); Invitation to Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown (2007); Wasted: Why Education Isn't Educating (2009); On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence (2011)
For a secular godless age, there is one virtue we promulgate about ourselves at almost all opportunities: tolerance. Tolerance has become something of a founding mythology for western developed nations: our tolerance is regarded as a mark of our superiority over many less tolerant, less developed nations around the world.
Our tolerance is evidence of the concept of historical progress. Our ancestors may have ripped each other apart over small theological differences, they may have persecuted those with different sexual preferences or ethnic identity, but in this enlightened age, we tolerate diversity.
Frank Furedi argues that the problem is that tolerance has been hijacked and bankrupted. Tolerance has become a form of "polite etiquette".
Where once it was about the tolerance of individuals and their opinions, it has now been "redeployed to deal with group conflicts". Once it was about opening the mind to competing beliefs, now it is about one that affirms different groups. Along this slippery path, much of the original importance of tolerance has been distorted or lost.
Tolerance has moved into meanings of nonjudgmentalism, acceptance. It has frequently slipped into a vague indifference – "you do what you like" type attitude to the people you live amongst.
What has been lost is JS Mill's understanding that tolerance is crucial to freedom. That tolerance is about putting up with views and opinions you may deeply disagree with; tolerance does not require abdicating judgement, only the firm belief that it is in the cut and thrust of debate that there is the best chance of truth.
Frank Furedi says that in our enthusiasm for tolerance, we have actually become a deeply intolerant culture. We pass legislation to police hate speech, campaigners launch tirades of abuse on climate change deniers, New Atheists lambast religious believers. On all fronts, Furedi sees examples of a new intolerance.
This is not the intolerance of witchcraft trials or the inquisition, but in our smug complacency, we overlook today's manifestations of enforcing conformity and managing behaviour.
Furedi has no time for the paternalistic nudge theories of Cass Sunstein, which he argues provide evidence of how the Anglo-American cultural elites have little respect for the moral capacity and autonomy of normal people. Yet again, elites are trying to control other people's lives: in the past they did it on religious grounds, now it's legitimised by "research" from behavioural economics, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. The result is that the liberal idea of "protecting the private sphere" is under serious cultural and political pressure.
[From The Guardian, 5 Sept 2011]
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Prof. Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent