THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

Introduction

Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

07 September 2016

The Annual Equality Lecture with Professor Andrew Sayer

On 24 October this year, the British Sociological Association and the British Library will hold their Sixth Annual Equality Lecture. The speaker, Professor Andrew Sayer, will talk to the topic ‘Why We Can’t Afford the Rich’ about which he has written a book, aimed at a public audience.

Professor Sayer is Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy at Lancaster University. Over the last 40 years, he has written on the philosophy of social science, industry and unequal development, political economy, divisions of labour and their economic and social implications, the causes of inequalities and their impact on individuals, and on dignity and ethics in everyday life.

In the last 15 years he has also worked on ‘moral economy’, examining the justifications of particular economic institutions and relationships, and the relationship between economic practices and morality in everyday life. This work has been extremely valuable to those interested in the complexity of everyday practices which enable inequalities to persist in our society.

The subject of ‘Why We Can’t Afford the Rich’ couldn’t be more topical. For instance, the tax affairs of the super-wealthy continue to receive regular press coverage in the UK. Meanwhile, some of the world’s richest companies have been reported as benefiting from complex and lucrative tax avoidance schemes, and there is much online speculation about the social ends to which this money might otherwise have been used.

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Image: Professor Andrew Sayer © Andrew Sayer

The broad collections at the British Library are able to show aspects to this debate within its wider historical context. The relationship between wealth distribution, social responsibility and morality has been debated across time, and across cultures, within social, legal and religious writing as well as within famous works of fiction. For instance, Charles Dickens is well known for his explorations of wealth inequality, morality and human behaviour in Victorian society.

In previous years, the Annual Equality Lecture has covered topics including equality for people with disabilities; the meaning of liberty; egalitarian social capital; the value and of equality and; equality and wellbeing. The expert and passionate speakers we have been lucky enough to host have delivered thought-provoking lectures, many of which are available as podcasts and videos.

We hope that you can attend the event this year for an evening of intellectual discussion, followed by conversation in the bar. For further information about the event and booking details, please see our ‘What’s On’ pages.

27 April 2016

Propaganda course nominated for Learning on Screen Award

Update! We won! Very pleased to say that our film won the Courseware and Curriculum Non-Broadcast award. Details are at http://bufvc.ac.uk/events/learningonscreen. Congratulations to Director Alec Millward, author and presenter Maiken Umbach and all involved. 

We're very excited to report that one of the films from our online course Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life has been nominated for a Learning on Screen award.

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The Battle for Civilisation, British leaflet from Word War Two

The award, to be announced on the evening of 28th April, is in the category of Courseware and Curriculum non-broadcast production. Our film, 'From the "Just War" to the "Unjust Peace"', features in week 2 of our course, which addresses issues related to justice and protest. The film is presented by Maiken Umbach, Professor of History at the University of Nottingham and one of the lead educators on our course. Learners are asked to consider the problem of violence and justice, reflecting on an exhibition of photographs made by Lee Miller. The photographs document the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, including images of violence against the Nazi perpetrators of atrocities. For our course, the question is whether violent methods have a role to play in justice, and the role of war as a means of restoring justice.

The films in our course are designed to explain current thinking and research around issues that are often complex and contested. Bringing a range of perspectives on propaganda and ideology, they feature researchers from disciplines, including history, politics, sociology, media studies and psychology. Our course has 18 short films in total, four of which were made at the British Library and feature material from our collections of maps, Chinese posters, and British World War Two publications.

As with other learning steps on the course, the aim is to generate an informed and diverse debate on politically significant topics that have relevance to our everyday life. When we first ran the course last year, we attracted thousands of learners from over 20 countries around the world. Across the five weeks of the course, participants learned from each others' experience and opinions, and drawing on the leading-edge research presented in the learning steps.

We're very excited that a film from our course has been nominated for a Learning on Screen award, and wish Maiken, director Alec Millward, and the production team the best of luck for Thursday evening. Our course starts on 16th May, and you can register for free now at http://www.futurelearn.com/courses/propaganda

20 April 2016

Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life

Our free online course Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life starts on 16th May 2016

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Svoboda po-amerikanski (Freedom, American Style) by B Prorokov, 1971

Freedom, justice, community, place and choice: words which are politically-charged and fundamental in our experience of everyday lives. Over five weeks, our online course explores how words and images gain different meanings, how we interpret the symbols we encounter, and how these interpretations are sometimes 'quoted back' to us with a specific political intent.

Our course is developed and delivered with the Centre for the Study of Political Ideologies at the University of Nottingham. Learners can sign up for the course now, free of charge, at the FutureLearn website. Learning is structured across a small number of activities each week, which are broken down into simple steps. A step might be a short video presentation, or a reading or a question to discuss. Discussion is the most important part of our course, allowing us to learn from each-other's experiences and opinions. The nature of a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) means that we can explore our shared interests in comparative political study and the way in which our material worlds reflect and shape our political experience.

This is the second year in which we have run this course. In 2015, we had nearly 12,000 learners from 20 countries around the world. Our focus on learning through discussion meant that all participants, including those of us who developed the course, learnt through contributing to a lively debate that ran through all five weeks. Some of this learning has been incorporated into this year's course, including a focus on the experience of migration in expressions of identity, and how definitions of the 'unnatural' influences our political views. In preparation for this year, we have reviewed and updated course content, including the addition of four new films.     

A unique feature of our course is that we ask participants to share images either that they find online or of photographs that they have taken themselves. These images relate to the themes discussed each week, and are surprising in how they reveal our responses to concepts such as 'freedom', 'nature' and 'community'. Many of the images shared last year were of open spaces, representing nature as an expression of freedom but also as something threatened by unrestrained freedom or consumption. You can see a selection of images shared on our Flickr site.

We were incredibly impressed by the quality of interaction on our course last year, and learners were very positive about course content and the course leaders. We hope that you will join us from 16th May when the course restarts, and sign up today at www.futurelearn.com/courses/propaganda/