Update for Monday 10th July 2017

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Frank Dobson will lift the veil on decision-making processes at the Department of Health involving the Prime Minister, Chancellor, other Ministers and Departments, clinical and scientific advisers, NHS staff, professional bodies, trades unions, drug companies and patient groups, in the face of funding problems and conflicting official advice. He will cover the establishment of NICE, the threat to blood supplies from Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the introduction of the meningitis ‘C’ vaccine, MMR and autism, the concentration of children’s intensive care, anthrax vaccine for British troops and Viagra.

Rt. Hon. Frank Dobson, Fellow of Birkbeck College and Hon. Fellow of Royal College of Physicians. Member and subsequently Leader of Camden Council. Member of Parliament for Holborn and St. Pancras 1979-2015. Served on Labour’s front bench from 1981, including as Shadow Health Minister, producing authoritative reports on cervical cancer screening and infertility services. Appointed Health Secretary 1997, resigning in late 1999. He has served as governor of the Royal Veterinary College and member of council of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and of the University of York.

Registration required.

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The post global financial crisis (GFC) era has witnessed the emergence of a variety of popular social movements in reaction to the dislocating effects of financial crisis, globalization and Austerity. The concept of alienation has been used to describe this dislocation, a negative affective state arising from a lack of meaning and listlessness in one’s lived experience. In the popular press, the term has become commonplace, while the curiosity of scholarship has also awoken.

This follows a long period of the concept’s own marginalisation after post-structuralist critiques from the 1970s onwards had placed it in the dustbin of history. They problematised the understanding of alienation as an estrangement from, or loss of relation to, an authentic and whole self, a pre-social and pristine such.

We have since learnt that aspirations of absolute self-coherency are illusory, that the self is best perceived as a process and that life to some extent always is heteronomous.

These lessons notwithstanding, this critique led to the removal of the concept from public debate. Now, the urge to capture the current experience of self-insolvency, often in relation to organizational life, has brought the concept back into critical social commentary, albeit without sound scholarly underpinnings. To conceptualise alienation, without for that matter relapsing into a quest for a fully coherent self, is therefore an urgent task.

Recent work in the tradition of the Frankfurt School, for which the concept of alienation (or “reification”) was once fundamental, provides potential relief. Tackling this challenge head on, Rahel Jaeggi (2014) attempts to revive the concept while remaining attentive to poststructuralist critiques. She understands alienation, not as the absence of a relation, but rather as a deficient one. Her notion of alienation is not defined by the negation of perfectionist ideals of autonomy, authenticity and liberty, but is rather more fluid.

This appears to be particularly relevant in the current era, in which we have seen so many efforts of diverging persuasions to overcome alienation. She also attributes great significance to the opposing process, that of constructing self-meaning through collective learning in a fluid world not of one’s own making: appropriation.

This event will critically explore alienation and appropriation at different levels of abstraction and at different spatial scales: global, regional and local. We have seen the rise of the Tea Party movement in the United States, the election of Donald Trump, the simultaneous rise of far-left and -right parties and movements in Europe, not least visible with the spike of nationalist sentiment and Europhobia witnessed in Brexit.

On Merseyside, Austerity has brought deep cuts to public expenditure typically affect those in the greatest need of public services and various forms of social income, transfers and services the most. This has resulted in alienation and a serious crisis of social reproduction, yet at the same time also experiences of appropriation as the Social Economy has stepped in to try to fill the space left behind in the backwater of Austerity.

As such, this event examines the social, economic, cultural, political and affective production of publics, a matter of urgent social, political, economic and cultural concern of our dislocated times to social scientists as well as to states, corporations, and others.

Registration required.

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What are the ingredients of successful activism today in a city like Liverpool? What challenges do campaigners face? How can we ensure that the strategies we follow are going to be effective? How can we ensure activism both achieves its goals and empowers our communities?

Change comes about when people believe that change is possible, but also when people get organised and take action to make that change happen.

Liverpool’s strong tradition of activism is testimony to that. It is a city famous for its vibrant grass-roots culture of campaigning, with a strong tradition of non-conformity and radicalism that stretches back many decades.

We are inviting local community and political activists and those with an interest in campaigning and activism to explore some of the ingredients of effective and empowering grass-roots activism.
What have you, as activists and campaigners, found to be the best strategies and approaches to achieving your aims? What good practice and ideas do you have to share?

As part of this, we aim to produce both practical outputs and useful research for the support of community oriented activism and activists in Liverpool, the region and beyond.

We also hope it will provide a basis for an ongoing collaboration and dialogue between grassroots activists, academics and professionals, for example by establishing a framework of ‘good practice’ in grass-roots activism that links action on the ground with research and professional insights.

Registration required.

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A major two-day conference in Liverpool in July 2017, to assess the state of the UK constitution on the 20th anniversary of New Labour's election to office in 1997. This government was elected on a manifesto of unprecedented constitutional ambition, and delivered a programme of reform which fundamentally changed the UK constitution.

In its 1997 election manifesto, New Labour promised devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Human Rights Act, reform of the House of Lords, elected city mayors, freedom of information, electoral reform and more. And while not all of these aspirations were realised (and some were added to the programme, such as creation of a Supreme Court), it was a defining period in the development of the modern UK constitution. The 20th anniversary of this election provides an ideal moment to pause and take stock after a period of rapid constitutional change. We therefore propose to bring together, in Liverpool, leading scholars to explore the boundaries of the new constitution, and to ask what constitutional changes the future might hold.

Registration required.

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