What Happened To Agency?

The final of four autumn 2014 ‘Tetley Talks’ on the theme of ‘What does it mean to be human?’

Nowadays everyone is obsessed with themselves. People take life-affirming journeys and courses in self-discovery, cover themselves in tattoos, and talk about little else – the fear is that we are a selfish society, only interested in number one. But the preoccupation with the Self is a clue that the modern sense of identity is weak, not strong. We are a long way from the assertive self-confident individual of the eighteenth century, or the collective struggles of the nineteenth century. The contemporary idea of Self is fundamentally precarious, unsure of its goals, and without a sense of its mission in the world. Margaret Thatcher hoped that she could pull back the collectivist welfare-state and uncover a healthy individualism – but all that has been uncovered is a cautious and inward-looking individual. Looking at the situation of the individual and the collective today, what are the prospects for human agency?




Saturday 27 September 2014


2pm to 3:30pm


£5 waged / £3 unwaged


useful reading:

salon partners:

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The Tetley is a centre for contemporary art and learning, located in the former headquarters of the world-famous Tetley Brewery on Hunslet Road. Visit their website at: www.thetetley.org/