Ernest Jones Lecture 2023Book tickets
British Psychoanalytical Society (incorporating the Institute of Psychoanalysis)
Speaker: Anthony Julius
Chaired by Vic Sedlak, President of the British Psychoanalytical Society
Distinguishing between the present and the near-past, ask: How was free speech championed then, and how now?
“Then,” by efforts to enlarge speech boundaries – what could be said, who could speak, and in what places and to what audiences. The championing was successful. What could once only be whispered, could be spoken with confidence and in full voice. The hitherto silent were finding their voice and were being heard. Topics that had been suppressed, forms of expression that had been proscribed, etc. – were released into the public realm. It was an affair, most generally, of the overrunning of limitations, with a view to redefining them, setting the parameters wider. Those were liberating, invigorating, exciting times.
But “now”? Not so invigorating, not so exciting. Instead, we experience a giddy disorientation, which disables any activity of defence of free speech (let alone championing). The overrunning of boundaries has destroyed the very notion of boundary. And there is a new censoriousness, which threatens the achievements of the recent past but is commonly defended in the name of free speech. We might say: We have passed from limitations on free speech, which was overcome, to threats to free speech, which we struggle to overcome without destroying what we seek to defend. It is not surprising that we find ourselves in a state of confusion and demoralisation. Is there a way out?
Anthony Julius is Deputy Chair of the law firm Mishcon de Reya, a Professor in the Law Faculty, at UCL (where he occupies the chair in Law and the Arts), and a Visiting Professor at Haifa University, Israel. He is the author of several books, including Transgressions: The Offences of Art (Thames and Hudson, 2002) and Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England (OUP, 2010, 2012). In 2020, he co-edited the volume Bentham and the Arts (UCL Press), contributing the essay, “More Bentham, Less Mill.” Among his current writing projects is a book provisionally entitled “Free Speech for Liberals.”
Vic Sedlak is a Training and Supervising Analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society and is currently the President of the Society. He is in private practice in the North of England.