Our Democratic Future: Professor Ben Ansell announced as BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lecturer for 2023

Our Democratic Future: Professor Ben Ansell announced as BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lecturer for 2023

This year’s BBC Radio 4 Reith lecturer has been announced as Ben Ansell, Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. His four lectures, titled Our Democratic Future, will consider how to build political systems that work for all and are robust enough to face the wide-ranging challenges of the twenty-first century.

As the United Kingdom and United States prepare for important elections in 2024, Ben will follow in the footsteps of previous lecturers, including Robert Oppenheimer, Hilary Mantel, Edward Said, Onora O’Neill, Michael Sandel, Margaret MacMillan, Stephen Hawking and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to ask how our democracies can best deal with the onslaught of polarisation, climate change, global security, artificial intelligence, and the many other challenges that will face the incoming governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

The 2023 lectures will be recorded in front of live audiences in London, Berlin, Sunderland, and Atlanta this autumn before being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 later this year and will be available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

The four lectures in Our Democratic Future each focus on a specific goal: democracy, security, solidarity and prosperity. Each lecture will consider where we are now and how we are faring today in achieving these ambitions, exploring future challenges before concluding with a look ahead, to ask what we can do to accomplish our collective goals:

The first lecture, ‘The Future of Democracy’, asks whether we are in a ‘democratic recession’, where longstanding democracies are at risk of breakdown and authoritarianism is resurgent.
The second lecture, ‘The Future of Security’, asks whether citizens of wealthy countries have been lulled into a false sense of security about threats from abroad and at home.
The third lecture, ‘The Future of Solidarity’, explores whether we can develop a shared sense of belonging in today’s polarised societies.
The final lecture, ‘The Future of Prosperity’, engages with a crucial question – can we continue to grow our economies without despoiling the earth?
Mohit Bakaya, Director of Speech Audio and Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra, says: “The Reith Lectures have always sought to showcase the most interesting thinking around, and Ben Ansell is an exciting emerging voice in the world of political science, with a distinctive take on what the challenges we face are, and what we might do about them. As we head into a big political year, I hope these lectures will allow us to take a moment to consider what the political future might look like for the UK, as well as internationally, and think collectively how we can work better together to cope with the pressures that lie ahead.”

Ben Ansell says: “I am deeply honoured to have been chosen as this year’s Reith lecturer. We live in a time of great political turmoil and stand at the cusp of profound technological and ecological changes. Now is a crucial moment to think about whether our political institutions are fit to face these challenges and what we can do as a community to ensure our democratic future. My lectures will draw on big political ideas and cutting-edge research in the social sciences to suggest how we can collectively address these existential questions.”

Ben received his PhD in Government from Harvard University in 2006 and conducts research in a wide area of comparative politics and political economy. Before joining Oxford and Nuffield College he was an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. Ben is also an award-winning author, and his Reith Lectures will build on his most recent book Why Politics Fails, which was published earlier this year.

The lectures and question-and-answer sessions will be chaired by presenter, journalist and author Anita Anand.

Audiences can apply for free tickets to the recordings from Wednesday 20th September, via the BBC website.

BBC Radio 4

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