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The Fate of Freedom

Tuesday 12 January 2010, 6.30pm-8.00pm The British Academy, Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

In his 1859 essay, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill lamented what he saw as the decline of freedom in his own day. He wrote, 'There is in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the powers of society over the individual both by the force of opinion and even by that of legislation.' And he predicted that unless strong barriers were raised against this 'mischief', individual liberty would be under ever­increasing threat.

Was Mill right? Has freedom been eroded or extended? How much freedom do we have in Britain today and how much can we legitimately want? Does the existence of the Human Rights Act serve as an effective defence of liberty? What are the implications for freedom of counter­terrorist legislation, of ASBOs, or of the DNA database? These are some of the questions which will be addressed as the speakers explore both the philosophical arguments for freedom and the implications of those arguments for politics in the modern world. What has been, and what will be, the fate of freedom?

The speakers:

Convenor and Chair: Professor Sue Mendus FBA, Vice­-President of the British Academy and Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of York

Professor Chandran Kukathas, Professor of Political Theory at the LSE

Professor Matt Matravers, Professor of Political Philosophy and Director of the Morrell Centre for Toleration at the University of York.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties