23 November WRR Lecture 2017: Open Society: Its Old Enemies and its New Friends

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  • Date
  • Time -
  • Location Theatre Diligentia, The Hague

Lange Voorhout 5, The Hague

On thursday November 23 2017 the annual WRR Lecture will take place at Theatre Diligentia in The Hague. The keynote speaker is Michael Ignatieff, president and rector of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. The title of the Lecture is: Open Society: Its Old Enemies and its New Friends.

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Open Society: Its Old Enemies and its New Friends

An open society can exist only in a lively democracy that guarantees debate and the possibility to express criticism. Crucial pillars in that respect are a free media, a freely accessible public domain, academic freedom and the rule of law. In essence, however, free societies are also uncontrolled societies. In the strongly digitised world in which we now live, this essential characteristic of open societies seems to be adding to uncertainty. The emotional and manipulative potential of digital communication offers a platform to the new enemies of the open society, while it encourages unease and even fear in others. And those traditional guarantees – a free media, a freely accessible public domain and the rule of law – seem to be in danger of being overpowered by the new forces that can hardly be contained. Meanwhile, in some parts of Europe, the old enemies of the open society are again being given room to manoeuvre and the boundaries of the rule of law are being crossed.

New Friends

What new instruments and fora can we develop to allow criticism to flourish and to guarantee an exchange of opinions? If conflict is a vital part of the open society, how can we distinguish constructive from destructive conflicts – if that distinction can even be made? Must we and can we describe the values of the open society using other words? What roles do the media, academic research, public fora and other institutions have and how must they adjust? To what extent and in what way must the government play a facilitating and guaranteeing role in the search for new friends?


Following the lecture by Michael Ignatieff, the role of academic research and technology, the media, politicians and administrative authorities will be discussed in response to the above questions. Contributing to this discussion are prof. dr. V. Subramaniam, rector magnificus at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Marcia Luyten, publicist and journalist and Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You, lawyer and human rights activist. Prior to the discussion, Haroon Sheikh will recite a column on the theme of the Lecture.

Annual Lecture

The annual WRR Lecture offers policy makers and academics a high profile opportunity to discuss current policy issues with long term relevance for Dutch society. Applications for this years Lecture through: lecture2017@wrr.nl