Symposium of the TRACE project

Institute for Historical Research, London
Senate House, Wolfson Room NB02

1-2 February 2016

One of the implications of the recovery of rhetorical style of thinking in recent decades has been the recognition of the presence of the political aspect, the contingent and controversial, in scholarship. This holds not only for research practices of scholars but also for university politics or applications for funding and academic positions. Instead of seeing scholarly and political activities as opposed to each other, the former can be rather seen as an abridged version of the latter, relieved from the final moment of decision and from the immediate concern with the lives of others.

In an interview in 2008 Quentin Skinner formulated the point: “I now say to my students on Hobbes’s Leviathan … , think of it as a speech in parliament; all of these great works of political philosophy are recognizably contributions to a debate; interpreting is to uncover what that contribution was”. Skinner thus identifies debate as the common core of politics and research and the parliamentary form of debate as a model, to which also scholarly debates should be compared.

Quentin Skinner will serve as discussant in the symposium.

We take this insight as the point of departure for this symposium. The aim of the event is to proceed further, for example, with the following questions: Where are the similarities between parliamentary and academic debates, and where do they differ? Can parliamentary debate be seen as the rhetorical and procedural model for conducting controversies in research? Why are the procedures and practices of parliamentary debates better recognised and institutionalised than those of scholarly debates? Why are the presence and the value of academic controversies not as generally recognised as those of parliamentary disputes?

Furthermore, there are different practices in political and academic cultures. Where can such differences be found, and how are they related to the histories of democratisation and parliamentarisation of their respective polities? What is, in particular, the link between the English rhetorical culture and the powers of the Westminster parliament? Is the ‘science cult’ more deeply rooted in France than in Britain, or does the demand for a united nation underplay the value of dissensus and debate? Does the alleged non-existence of ‘intellectuals’ in Britain mean greater suspicion towards academics as politicians in the post-war era than on the European continent? Are the Scandinavian multi-party regimes comparably wary of debate and more ready to hand over power to officials, lobbyists and experts than the politicians at Westminster?

It is also interesting to consider transfers of the parliamentary model of procedure beyond the parliament proper to local politics, universities, meetings, associations and so on. Is there a British Sonderweg that more fully than the continental thinking recognises the value of dissent and debate in political culture? How could a debate-style political culture be possible in the present-day world, in parliaments and beyond?

Fashionable ‘leadership’ and ‘good governance’ models in universities have replaced their academic self-government. Does this organisation change further alienate academics from parliamentary modes of thinking and acting politically? Do the university study reforms (Bologna) make it more difficult to combine student and university politics and academic career?

Questions like these are seldom presented in contemporary academic debates. The TRACE project invites scholars and academic politicians from the UK and continental Europe to discuss themes related to the above questions in this symposium.


Monday 1 February 2016


Arrival and coffee


Opening remarks

Kari Palonen and Taru Haapala, University of Jyväskylä

Opening of the symposium and presentation of the TRACE project


Theorising the Purpose of Parliamentary Debate

Alan Finlayson, University of East Anglia


The political use of ‘evidence’ in UK law-making

Emma Crewe, SOAS, University of London

Lunch break


Parliamentary Debates as a Model for Max Weber’s Politics of Values

Kari Palonen, University of Jyväskylä


Richard Cobden and the Parliamentary Model of Politics

Rosario López, University of St Andrews and University of Málaga

Coffee break


 ‘A pamphleteering politician’? Keynes, political economy, and cultures of debate, c. 1906-1946

Richard Toye, University of Essex


Oxford Union Debate on War in 1933: Rhetoric, Representation, Political Action

Taru Haapala, University of Jyväskylä


Tuesday 2 February


Schlosser’s Virtues and Vices: A Scholarly Dispute and a Parliamentary Debate

Herman Paul, University of Leiden


The executive style of debate and the limited impact of parliamentarian rhetoric on German political culture

Marcus Llanque, University of Augsburg


Debating ‘the ABCs of Parliamentary Life’: The Role of Scholars in the Parliamentarisation of Finnish Political Culture, 1860–1914

Onni Pekonen, University of Leiden

Lunch break


European Integration in British, French and German Parliamentary Debates

Claudia Wiesner, University of Jyväskylä and Technical University of Darmstadt


Concluding discussion