IGP Events

Apathy, Politics and Anxiety

Thursday 30 May, 2024 | 17:30 -19:00 |


G06, Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre, Roberts Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

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About the Speaker:

Renata Salecl is a philosopher and sociologist. She is a Professor of Psychology and Psychoanalysis of Law at the School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London and a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her books, which have been translated into 20 languages, include A Passion for Ignorance: What We Choose not to Know and Why (Princeton UP, 2020), Tyranny of Choice (Profile Books, 2011), On Anxiety (Routledge, 2004), and (Per)versions of Love and Hate (Verso, 1998). Renata’s work has been presented at TED Global. In addition to her scholarly work, she has published catalogue essays on artists Francis Bacon, Jenny Holzer, Anthony Gormley and Sarah Sze. She is also active in the civil initiative “Airspace tribunal,” which is engaged in the initiative to propose a new human right to protect the freedom to live without physical or psychological threats from above.

About this Talk:

While dealing with continuous social turmoils, economic insecurity, the pandemic, climate change and deadly wars, people are increasingly closing their eyes or resorting to apathetically switching off. Some people decide not to vote, others do not follow the news, and still others respond to the disaffection with politics by enclosing themselves in their private lives. Apathy is not a new phenomenon. The neoliberal type of apathy, however, differs from what people have experienced in the past. This lecture will show how apathy has changed in the last decades and how countries that transitioned from socialism to capitalism have experienced a particular alteration in apathy. It will also reflect on how today's capitalism contributes to new forms of apathy, such as burnout. When societies go through a crisis, apathy is, however, not the only response to heightened anxiety. Some people might resort to sublimation, a concept known from psychoanalysis, with the help of which people channel unwanted or unacceptable urges into admissible or productive ones, like art, science and religion. In conclusion, the lecture will examine how people have been responding to anxiety about recent crises and whether there is any value in the concept of the »right to apathy« promoted by some political scientists in the middle of the last century.


G06, Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre,

Roberts Building, Gower Street

London WC1E 6BT

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