The individual and society
Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood and guests join a live audience at RSA in London to explore the sometimes tense and at other times inspiring relationship between the individual and society. How do we strike a balance between personal desires and the wider needs of society? And how is this relationship changing in an increasingly globalised world? On the panel: American sociologist and director of the London School of Economics Craig Calhoun, Kenyan psychiatrist and mental health campaigner Frank Njenga and Chinese writer and film-maker Sun Shuyun. Illustration by Emily Kasriel.
Craig Calhoun recently took up his post as LSE Director, having left the United States where he was University Professor at New York University and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge and President of the Social Science Research Council. He argues that we need to be part of society in order to flourish as individuals: we don’t need freedom from society, we need freedom in society.
Film maker and writer Sun Shuyun divides her time between London and Beijing, making documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and international broadcasters. She says that today’s China is again drawing upon its tradition of Confucianism in the struggle to find the fabled ‘harmony’ between society and individualism. She adds that Confucianism can become a negative force when it is used by the state to control its people.