Head To Head

Edward Stourton presents a series celebrating great debates, combining archive of rare discussions between key figures with analysis by a panel of experts.

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01012009042120100214

The panel discusses the 1969 debate between left-wing philosopher Noam Chomsky and conservative commentator William F Buckley about United States foreign policy and how it justifies its objective of spreading 'freedom' around the world.

The panel discusses the heated 1969 debate between left-wing philosopher Noam Chomsky and conservative commentator William F Buckley about United States foreign policy and how it justifies its objective of spreading 'freedom' around the world.

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

The 1969 debate between Noam Chomsky and William F Buckley about American foreign policy.

0102*2009042820100217

The battle between Milton Friedman and Lord Balogh on the relative merits of free-market economics at a time when Britain was in financial crisis.

The 1976 battle between Milton Friedman and Lord Balogh on the relative merits of free-market economics at a time when Britain was in financial crisis.

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

The battle between Milton Friedman and Lord Balogh on the merits of free-market economics.

01032009050520100221

Clive James' debate with Gore Vidal on how Christianity has affected mankind's ability to think and live freely.

Professors AC Grayling and Alister McGrath unpick both standpoints.

Clive James' debate with Gore Vidal on the effects of Christianity.

0104 LAST*2009051220100228

Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan clash over the electronic age.

Has technology set man free or alienated individuals and led to a fragmented society?

0201Bertrand Russell And Hugh Gaitskell2010081120101213

In a returning series, Edward Stourton revisits passionate broadcast debates of the 1960s and 70s when keen intellects clashed on matters of real moment.

Each programme explores the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

The first episode is taken from Prospects of Mankind (1960), a television series chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the former US first lady.

The subject: Britain's place in the rivalry of the cold war.

At 88, Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest 20th-century thinkers, battles for Britain's neutrality in a dangerous world.

In Hugh Gaitskell 'the best prime minister we never had', some say, the grand old man of pacifism meets his match.

The then leader of the Labour party argues for Britain's continued close relations with the United States and the need for nuclear arms to avert Armageddon.

Should Britain keep a nuclear deterrent? And continue to nurture its 'special relationship' with the White House? The current discussion over Trident was never more relevant.

In the studio dissecting the debate are Tony Benn, whose political career goes back to the Gaitskell days, and Ray Monk, professor of philosophy at Southampton University and Russell's biographer.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton revisits a broadcast debate from 1960 about nuclear disarmament and Nato.

0202A J P Taylor And Hugh Trevor-roper2010081820101214

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates of the 1960s and 70s exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

This episode pitches AJP Taylor against Hugh Trevor-Roper, two big-name historians and the 'telly dons' of their time.

It's 1961 and the fall-out of world war two is still fresh in the minds of the British people.

Taylor had just published his provocative revision of the orthodox view of the causes of the war in 1939 - that Britain had scuppered a lunatic dictator's plans of world domination.

Taylor argued instead that Hitler was a rational statesman who carried out the expected foreign policies of any German leader, and that a war against Britain and France was unintended.

It caused outrage.

Also on the table is the question of Munich - were tweaks to Germany's frontiers to save another world war morally right? The inflation of the term 'appeasement' has many contemporary connotations.

In the studio dissecting the debate is Adam Sisman, biographer of both AJP Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper, and Richard Evans, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

The 1961 clash between AJP Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper over the origins of WWII.

0203Aj Ayer And Edward De Bono2010082520101215

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

In this episode, two leading minds thrash out the question of whether democracy works.

It was a meeting of logical and lateral thinking in 1976 when celebrity philosopher AJ Ayer discussed the fairness and efficiency of democracy with Edward de Bono, the original lateral thinker.

The 1970s were trying economic times in the UK and the British public was losing faith in its government.

Why was it Britain had won the war yet countries such as France and Germany were prospering and we weren't? In this context, Ayer and de Bono explore the fault lines in representative government: do elected politicians actually represent the interests of the population? Are these politicians equipped to do the job? And who makes the big decisions anyway - ministers or civil servants?

Their debate is in part a search for innovative solutions - not unlike the current UK political situation.

In the studio dissecting the debate are Ben Rogers, Associate Fellow at think tank Demos and writer of Ayer's biography, and author Piers Dudgeon, who wrote de Bono's biography.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

The 1976 clash between AJ Ayer and Edward de Bono about the fairness of democracy.

0204 LASTMalcolm X And James Farmer2010090120101216

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

In this last episode, two leading black activists clash at the very height of the Civil Rights movement.

It was summer 1963 when the radical Muslim Malcolm X met mainstream campaigner James Farmer.

They were fired up by the same ideals but were divided on how to achieve them.

Malcolm X demanded the creation of an all-black nation, by violent means if necessary.

Farmer believed in de-segregation through peaceful protest and the law - using the US constitution to fulfill its promise of an America free for all men.

Whether segregation still exists today is up for question.

In the studio dissecting the debate are the author Bonnie Greer, who was a teenager in 1960s Chicago, and Dr Stephen Tuck, lecturer in American Studies at Oxford University.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Revisiting the 1963 clash between civil rights activists Malcolm X and James Farmer.

0205 LASTFoucault And Chomsky20101217

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

In this episode, two thinkers discuss the nature of power and oppression in contemporary society.

This rare footage was recorded on Dutch television in 1971 with a backdrop of social unrest the world over.

Michel Foucault, the French philosopher, had emerged in his own country as a militant leader after the 1968 student riots.

Across the Atlantic, amid growing civil unrest, the American intellectual Noam Chomsky was central to the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Both men of the left, but with two distinct ideas about how power is wielded.

Chomsky saw groups of elites in charge - the military, the economic and multinational elites.

But also an intellectual elite that feeds ideas into the public domain and thus controls the flow if ideas and how people think.

Foucault, however, thought the mechanisms behind oppression were more deceptive.

Social institutions, such as universities, psychiatric hospitals and prisons, subtly imposed restrictions on knowledge and the way people behave.

And if a theory can be put into practice, what of civil disobedience and how to justify it?

In the studio dissecting the debate are David Macey, Professor in Translation at Nottingham University, who wrote a biography of Foucault, and John Taylor, Professor of Politics at London's South Bank University.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives - The nature of power.

030120110815

In a new series, Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

In the first episode, two leading minds tangle over the age-old question of the trade-off between liberty and equality.

Sir Isaiah Berlin's regular media appearances made him famous in a way very few philosophers are today.

On Radio 3 in 1976 he met John Vaizey, an economist and loyal Labour man finding himself on a journey from left to right.

Equality has always been, says Berlin, one of the ultimate goals of men, that it has meant fairness.

But, says Vaizey, at what cost? Must we give up much of our freedom and let despots and tyrants orchestrate grand sweeping plans in order to attain an egalitarian society? On the other hand, if we accept a society where citizens are free to be unequal, is this not desirable for a vibrant and flourishing culture? The discussion reflects a post-war Europe shaken to its boots by the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

And in David Cameron's Big Society, similar arguments play out today.

Has a top-down state-led Britain lost out to a healthy dose of liberty? The conservative ideology of reeling in the state's tentacles, including funding for public institutions, mean many may suffer - but for the betterment of British society?

In the studio dissecting the debate are Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary's, University of London, and Paul Kelly, professor of political theory at the London School of Economics.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives.

Liberty or equality?

0302Press Freedom In The 1970s20110822

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.

Two media men clash over press freedom in Britain.

Harold Evans, campaign editor of the Sunday Times, appeared on BBC2 in 1974 to the backdrop of two major controversies in the newspaper business - Watergate and thalidomide.

He met Lord Windlesham, pillar of the Tory establishment.

Evans was furious that British media law prevented him reporting the cases of the victims of the morning sickness drug thalidomide, for whom he was determined to win fair compensation.

In stark contrast, the other side of the Atlantic had seen President Nixon brought to justice by the Washington Post.

Could Watergate have happened in the UK? Or would our laws, such as contempt of court, libel and Official Secrets Act, have restricted this course?

Windlesham, however, took a more conservative line, that existing legislation was in place to curb the excessive powers of a press that wasn't very good at taking criticism.

Evans later secured victory for thalidomide victims at the European Court of Human Rights.

But more than 40 years after this discussion, in a world of Wikileaks and super-injunctions, how does the contemporary media landscape compare?

In the studio dissecting the debate are Peter Preston, editor the Guardian for 20 years and now a columnist at the paper, and John Kampfner, who has worked in newspaper, broadcasting and magazine journalism and is now the chief executive of the Index on Censorship.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Revisiting debates from the archives, Edward Stourton explores press freedom in the 1970s.

0303Is Free Will An Illusion?20110823

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in the present day.

In the third episode, the very notion of free will is up for question - do we have it? B F Skinner was an American behaviourist and one of the most influential psychologists since Sigmund Freud.

To confront his quite controversial views on the human condition was an equally brilliant Donald Mackay, who in 1971 when they met on US television, was a British academic at the cutting edge of a new discipline called neuroscience.

Skinner had just published Beyond Freedom and Dignity, where he set out his contentious blueprint for a utopian society.

He believed that if human beings were prepared to give up their freedom, which was an illusion anyhow, their behaviour could be controlled in such a way that would solve some of the greatest challenges of our times, such as climate change and crime.

The mass social experiments that Skinner proposed met vehement opposition from Mackay.

Is Skinner's bleak determinism, his assumption about our inability to follow our own intentions, just plain wrong? Today, the discussion continues - the latest research on the mind has yielded surprising results.

Experiments that measure activity in different regions of the brain have shown that what we feel to be a conscious intention, a thought that is put into action, is in fact sparked by the unconscious part of the brain, which is beyond our knowing control.

In the studio are Angus Gellatly, professor of cognitive psychology at Oxford Brookes University, and Frederick Toates, who is professor of biological psychology at the Open University.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives - is free will an illusion?

0304Britain's Place In Europe20110829

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

In the fourth episode, a British and a French politician discuss Britain's place in Europe.

Denis Healey was Shadow Foreign Secretary when he met Maurice Schumann, later France's Foreign Minister, on BBC television in 1960.

Healey was the brilliant intellectual bruiser while Schumann, a war hero in the Resistance, was his equal.

The European Economic Community was two years old and has risen out of World War Two to ensure peace on the continent.

Many, including Schumann, thought that Britain should not only have joined the club but led it from the front.

Healey, though, represented a nation reluctant to give up its sovereignty.

His proposal of simple economic union to allow free trade was not to be.

And the six members - particularly, France - saw Britain's other allegiances to the Commonwealth and, importantly, the United States as patently un-European.

In coming years, French President De Gaulle twice vetoed British membership.

Britain's conditions for joining judged not in the spirit of the Euro project was one issue.

But France's difficult relationship with and suspicions of America, Britain's closest ally, and Her unwillingness to get drawn into NATO and the Cold War play out.

On to today and how far has Britain's position changed since this discussion.

Is a deeply anti-European current here simply one of the enduring facts of British political life?

In the studio are Dr James Ellison, reader in international history at Queen Mary, University of London, and Dr Piers Ludlow, reader in international history at the London School of Economics.

Producer: Dominic Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

In 1960, Denis Healey and Maurice Schumann discuss Britain's place in Europe.

0305 LASTNorthern Ireland20110905

Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

In the fifth episode, the issue of a united Ireland is up for question.

In December 1980, John Hume was one of the most powerful voices of Irish nationalism.

He met Michael Mates, a Tory MP with a military background in Northern Ireland, on a BBC Panorama programme recorded at the Cambridge Union.

Northern Ireland was far from the power-sharing agreement struck some 20 years later that assured Hume a Nobel Peace Prize.

Direct rule from Westminster and British army presence kept a deeply divided province, Mates believed, from all out civil war.

Hume wanted the British out and a lasting solution for the Catholics who for decades had disengaged themselves politically from the Unionist majority of Protestants.

This period was a turning point in the Troubles.

Belfast was a war zone and terrorism was a fact of life in England as well as the Six Counties.

Heightening the emotional intensity was a group of Republican prisoners on the first wave of hunger strikes in the Maze prison.

Margaret Thatcher stepped up and did what previous British Prime Ministers had tried to ignore, albeit with a hard line.

And Hume was on the verge of the controversial secret talks with the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Fein.

On to Ireland today - is Irish unity still conceivable? Has the power-sharing been a success and can other nations learn from bringing dissident groups to the debating table? The story of politics in Northern Ireland continues.

In the studio are Dr Michael Kerr from King's College London and Dr Paul Mitchell of the London School of Economics.

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

In 1980, conservative MP Michael Mates pits his wits against Irish nationalist John Hume.

0401The Decline Of Britain2012081320130218

Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them, and echoes of the arguments today.

When Correlli Barnett, the military historian, came to BBC studios in 1974 to record this debate, Britain was in dire straits. Like many at the time, he wondered why, just a century before, Britain had been the world's most powerful nation in terms of both military and economic strength. For the most part, Barnett blamed the ruling elites for Britain's demise - for creating a political culture that was overly liberal and lacking technological know-how. Had a romantic idealism set in and industrial development been neglected? And where did the roots of the problem reside - in our education system or the empire?

His adversary was historian and journalist Paul Johnson, who agreed that Britain was sick but offered a different diagnosis. Was the collapsing empire a symptom of Britain's decline or was it the cause? Having won two world wars, was Britain's military might real or merely a delusion of grandeur? And what was wrong with our leaders and their schooling?

In the studio dissecting the debate is Will Hutton, who has worked in journalism as an editor, a broadcaster and a commentator. He is author of "The State We're In" and currently the Principal of Hertford College at Oxford University. Joining him is David Edgerton, who is Hans Rausing Professor at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College London. He is also author of "Britain's War Machine".

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them, and echoes of the arguments today.

When Correlli Barnett, the military historian, came to BBC studios in 1974 to record this debate, Britain was in dire straits. Like many at the time, he wondered why, just a century before, Britain had been the world's most powerful nation in terms of both military and economic strength. For the most part, Barnett blamed the ruling elites for Britain's demise - for creating a political culture that was overly liberal and lacking technological know-how. Had a romantic idealism set in and industrial development been neglected? And where did the roots of the problem reside - in our education system, the empire?

1974. Historians Correlli Barnett and Paul Johnson clash on the causes of Britain's demise

0402Women's Lib2012082020130219

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

When the two women in this week's programme met for this head to head in 1974, the Women's Liberation Movement was reaching its heights. They both wanted sexual equality, but they had very different ideas about the means to achieve it.

Sally Oppenheim thought reforming the law could solve the woman question. As a Conservative MP, she was working on further anti-discrimination legislation to add to the Equal Pay Act that had already been passed by that stage.

But for radical feminist and psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell, gradual reform was not the way forward. She believed the status of women could not be elevated by laws alone because the roots of inequality lay deep, both in the fabric of society and the minds of women. Social structures would need to be torn down, starting with the role of women as wives and mothers.

Oppenheim was sceptical of these "second wave" feminists and their extreme position: how dare they prescribe such a widespread drastic change to the nature of womanhood.

On to today and, with a new brand of Tory feminism and indeed radicalism, on what lines is the equality debate fought now? How has the argument moved on?

In the studio dissecting the debate are Lynne Segal, Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, and Julie Bindel, who is an activist and journalist.

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

A radical feminist and a Tory reformer clash over the route to equality.

0403Morality And Freedom2012082720130220

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

Perhaps better known as a novelist, Iris Murdoch was also a recognised philosopher. By 1972 when she encountered fellow Oxford thinker David Pears for the film Logic Lane, she had already written 14 novels and made valuable contributions to moral philosophy. The dominant school up until that time had used a logic of language to help distinguish right from wrong, almost turning morality into a science. However, a new wave of European thought was bringing the debate away from prescribing meta-ideas and back down to individual choice.

At the heart of the debate was the issue of freedom of action. Could humans actually control their behaviour or were we pre-programmed to act in particular ways in certain situations? In this debate, Pears brings up the age-old debate of determinism versus free will - but further to that was a belief that, through self-knowledge, we could reclaim some control over our actions and therefore act in morally good ways.

So to what extent should we know ourselves in order to become better people - in a deep Freudian sense or simply by noticing our thoughts and reactions? By considering the practical concerns of everyday people and life, and what constitutes a good life, can this knowledge inform a new moral philosophy? Murdoch's ideas are as relevant today as ever.

In the studio dissecting the debate are Galen Strawson, Professor of Philosophy at Reading University, and Justin Broackes, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brown University in the United States.

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Morality and freedom: Iris Murdoch and David Pears discuss the nature of morality.

0404Pornography And Censorship2012090320130221

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

When these two men encountered each other on the BBC programme Late-Night Line-up in 1972, the Longford report on pornography had recently been published. Malcolm Muggeridge had sat on the committee and took a conservative stance, served by his Christian beliefs, that pornography was corrupting and something had to be done about the laws around publishing it.

Bernard Levin was as well-known as Muggeridge as a television personality and member of the cultural and political commentariat. Levin, though, was a libertarian and vehemently against what he saw as potential censorship of literature that he thought did not harm people and society as much as the Longford report suggested.

Was there a limit to the freedoms that the permissive society of the late-60s and early-70s demanded? Or is censorship a sacred cow? On to today and in the view of relatively recent developments in publishing, such as on the internet, how have the arguments around access to pornography changed?

In the studio dissecting the debate is Bel Mooney, broadcaster and journalist; and Christopher Booker, journalist and first editor of Private Eye.

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Stourton revisits broadcast debates from the archives. Pornography and censorship.

0405 LASTScientific Progress2012091020130222

Edward Stourton continues to revisit broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

By 1971, Austrian Sir Karl Popper was already established as perhaps the greatest philosopher of science when he appeared on Dutch television. He sat opposite Nobel-winning neuroscientist Sir John Eccles to discuss the scientific method and its flaws. How did we know if a fact or theory was unquestionably true or not?

As a young man, the discoveries of Albert Einstein, which dislodged many of the basic "truths" of physics according to Newtonian laws, had impressed on him the fallibility of scientific experiments. The scientific community, he asserted, needed to look at problems from a very different perspective - using his theory of falsifiability. Eccles had, in fact, used this way of thinking to disprove his own theories.

So how can we differentiate between pseudo-science and real science? What is the role of science and scientists in the progress of mankind? And on to today - do these arguments still hold sway?

In the studio dissecting the debate is Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford; and Anthony O'Hear, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham.

Producer: Dom Byrne

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Philosopher Karl Popper and neuroscientist John Eccles discuss scientific progress.