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Institute of Advanced Study

Utopia: Perfectly Possible?

Public Lecture Series

Each year, the Institute organises a series of topical public lectures given by world-prominent individuals around its annual theme. This year, with the thematic interest falling on the question of what happens next, the lecture series will focus on the topic of Utopia. 

At the start of the twenty first century, we seem to live as never before under the shadow of the future, seeking to predict, manage, control, a global future that seems precarious on many fronts.  And yet, in this effort to anticipate and manage the future, the idea of Utopia, so central to the aspirations of the 20th century and earlier, seems to have no place, partly because past utopian experiments are sensed to have failed miserably or brought immense misery in their quest for the perfect society.  We seem to want the future to unfold experimentally and pragmatically, guided by a light ethic of community and progress.  But can futurity exist without a clear idea of the good life, without a beacon of hope that can shine a light through the darkness?  This lecture series will examine the meaning, relevance and necessity of the idea of Utopia for our times, both in general and in relation to particular challenges we face. 

The series will include lectures by the celebrated historian of the idea and IAS Fellow, Russell Jacoby; the renowned environmentalist and IAS Fellow, Jonathon Porritt; Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees; eminent social and political theorist, Krishan Kumar; and distinguished literary and critical theorist Terry Eagleton.


16 November 2010, 8.30pm, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary's College
Professor Russell Jacoby (UCLA)
8 February 2011, 6.15pm, Room 140, Elvet Riverside Building
Mr Jonathon Porritt CBE (Forum for the Future)
22 February 2011, 6.15pm, Room 140, Elvet Riverside Building
Professor Lord Martin Rees FRS (University of Cambridge)
3 May 2011, 6.15pm, Room 140, Elvet Riverside Building
Professor Krishan Kumar (University of Virginia)
Professor Terry Eagleton (University of Lancaster)


These public lectures are free to attend and open to all.  For further information please contact the Institute of Advanced Study