Thursday 22 December 2016, Rob Lyons

Have we lost the art of conversation?

Podcast: listen to the debate at the Battle of Ideas 2016.

With Christmas approaching, families and friends will be thrown together for the festive season. But apart from vegetating over Christmas Day’s telly offerings, will we actually manage to spend much time talking to each other? And if we do, will those conversations amount to more than ‘pass the bread sauce’?

Thanks to new technology, we have never communicated as much as we do today. Yet, by contrast with past societies, we seem to take conversation less and less seriously. The Greeks worried about Socrates’s conversations with the youth of Athens. The French Salon was preoccupied with social formality. In the post-war decades, the rise of television led to many gloomy announcements of the ‘death’ of conversation. Is there any reason to think that today’s forecasts of the end of conversation are likely to be more accurate than previous ones? What is the purpose of conversation?

This debate from the Battle of Ideas was an opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation about the past, present and future of… conversation.


Dr Eliza Filby
visiting lecturer in Modern British History, King’s College London; author, God and Mrs Thatcher: The battle for Britain’s soul

Professor Julia Hobsbawm
honorary visiting professor, Cass Business School; founder, Editorial Intelligence

Richard Mason
screenwriter, philanthropist; author of five novels including, Who Killed Piet Barol?

Lauren Razavi
freelance journalist; content strategist; managing director, Flibl

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

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