IHS Discussion Colloquia

IHS Discussion Colloquia are designed for graduate students and faculty members seeking in-depth discussions about specialized topics in the classical liberal tradition. Our Discussion Colloquia utilize a roundtable discussion model and take place during a weekend with about 15 peers, a common set of readings, and an expert discussion leader. During the course of the program, participants will have the opportunity to discuss intensely interesting and challenging topics with their peers, network together, share their research, and hone their classical liberal scholarship with new ideas, perspectives, and tools.


These programs are free to attend and may take place either in-person or online. In the case of in-person discussions, IHS provides all materials, accommodations, and meals throughout the duration of the program, in addition to a generous travel stipend and $500 honorarium. Online programs also include generous honoraria and materials. See specific program websites for more information.

For more information, contact DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org. Participants can apply to any of the below programs.

World History of Liberalism

World history is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from across the humanities; and liberalism has been integral—fundamental, even—to world history. Here we will shift endlessly across time and space, discovering kernels of liberalism everywhere from ancient China to the English Civil Wars, challenging ourselves to think much more richly, deeply, and widely about what exactly liberalism is, what is has been, where it’s gone, and where it’s heading.

Sessions will take place as close to the final Monday of each month as possible from 3:00pm-5:00pm (ET) unless otherwise noted or updated.

World History of Liberalism

Check out our new World History of Liberalism online series. Learn More

Radical Liberalism and the Abolition Movement
Second Thursday Each Month from Sept. 9 – Dec. 9, 2021

The IHS is pleased to announce our latest online discussion series, “Radical Liberalism and the Abolition Movement.” Without a doubt, the abolition of slavery (in the United States and elsewhere around the world) represented one of the greatest leaps forward in human dignity and liberty in history. For all of the abolition movement’s shortcomings, failures, and infighting, it remains a critical example of radical liberal ideas meeting the historical moment and pushing for key political changes. This discussion series will explore the Jacksonian roots of abolitionism, from New York’s “Locofoco” movement, to Rhode Island’s little-known civil war, and the odd, fractious political combinations that ultimately made abolition happen.
Sessions will take place on Zoom, the second Thursday of each month from 2:00-4:00pm, eastern time.

Radical Liberalism and the Abolition Movement

Check out our new Radical Liberalism and the Abolition Movement series.
Learn More

Hayek and Spontaneous Order
October 7, 2021 — January 6, 2022

The IHS is pleased to announce our latest online discussion series for graduate students, “Hayek and Spontaneous Order.” In an effort to ensure that current graduate students are well-versed and engaged with contemporary classics in Classical Liberal scholarship, the IHS is beginning a series of explorations in the modern canon hosted by Discussion Leader and intellectual historian of liberalism, David M. Hart. This inaugural program will focus on several key works by Friedrich Hayek and one of his most important insights and contributions, the concept of spontaneous order. The subject has only gotten more important, in fact, since Hayek’s own long lifetime, right down to the mechanics, economics, and sociology of new technologies like cryptocurrencies and other uses for distributed ledgers. A denser, more interconnected, more communicative world should also be one that is well familiar with Hayek.

Check out our Hayek and Spontaneous Order series Learn more

Polarization and Contemporary Political Life
October 11, 2021 — January 10, 2022

The IHS is pleased to announce our latest online discussion series for graduate students, “Polarization and Contemporary Political Life.” Political polarization is a hallmark feature of many societies across time and space, and our own period is hardly remarkable in this regard. But while there may be nothing especially new about our polarized, polarizing climate, those of us who would like the world to emerge from it a freer, more peaceful, more prosperous place should understand how polarization hinders or helps that process. In this seminar series, discussants will look in-depth at the concept, practice, and propagation of polarization and investigate those ideas and institutions which would like trust to replace polarization.

Check out Polarization and Contemporary Political Life Learn more

Rousseau and Liberty
November 18, 2021 — February 17, 2022

The IHS is pleased to announce our latest online discussion series for graduate students, “Rousseau and Liberty.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau stood astride both the Enlightenment and Romantic periods, connecting the two through the force of his person and ideas. Rousseau was without a doubt one of the most important political and social thinkers in recent centuries, but his legacy remains hotly contested among Classical Liberals. In this series, discussants will examine Rousseau’s thought and work alongside a variety of recent authors who attempt to situate Rousseau’s ideas within the liberal tradition and the history of ideas.

Check out Rousseau and Liberty Learn more

Aspiring PhD Student Discussion Colloquia
November 19, 2021 — December 11, 2021

Undergraduates, MA students, and recent graduates interested in pursuing a PhD are invited to apply for IHS’ Aspiring PhD Student Discussion Colloquia. IHS will host three two-day discussion colloquia this fall. Participants can apply to attend one of three programs including Markets and Morality, Public Choice and Government Failure, and the History of Capitalism. These programs are designed for students interested in pursuing a PhD and consist of four discussion sections centered on a selection of readings pertaining to public choice theory, markets and morality, and the history of capitalism. 

Check out Aspiring PhD Student Discussion Colloquia Learn more | Apply Now

Liberalism, Nationalism, and Community
February 4, 2022 — February 6, 2022

Too often, today’s liberals from across the political and intellectual spectrum seem to find themselves more or less adrift in an increasingly nationalistic world. As part of our upcoming “Advanced Topics” series co-sponsored with Liberty Fund, the IHS will host a Discussion Colloquium on the importance of comparing and contrasting liberalism and nationalism on the topic of community-building and maintenance. A mixed audience of faculty and late-stage graduate students will discuss texts from contemporary liberals and conservative nationalists to the history of the Sephardic Jewish diaspora and that community’s attempts to remain connected over vast distances during the Early modern period. The discussion will be led by Professor Jonathan Jacobs of the Central University of New York and will be hosted in the DC area.

Decline & Resurgence of Civil Society

Check out our Liberalism, Nationalism, and Community series Learn more

Sexuality and the State
February 18, 2022 — May 20, 2022

Sexuality is a fundamental part of the human experience, individual identity, and, unfortunately, political life. Just as strongly as individuals desire to express themselves and live true to their own wishes, states and rulers have tried to control that expression and truth for their own purposes. In this monthly online seminar series, Discussion Leader and Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University, James Stacey Taylor, will lead participants through discussions of sexual identity, individualism, and the many state and social attempts to impose restrictions or controls on sexual expression. From Gore Vidal’s classic and powerful example of “the gay novel,” The City and the Pillar (1948) to Prof. Abigail Saguy’s contemporary sociological account of many different “coming out” experiences, discussants will gain a richer understanding of sexuality as individualist expression and the struggles against constituted power which have characterized modern sexual politics.

Sexuality and the State

Check out our Sexuality and the State series Learn more | Apply Now

Liberty, Equality, and Redistribution
March 18, 2022 — March 20, 2022

As political and intellectual contests between Classical Liberals, Progressives, and a variety of conservatives continue to simmer (and occasionally boil), the subject of economic redistributionism is only more salient. To provide a variety of liberal interpretations, critiques, and endorsements of redistributionism, the IHS and Liberty Fund will be hosting an Advanced Topics discussion colloquium which should both challenge discussant’s presuppositions and better inform their research on this important topic moving forward. The primarily graduate student audience will discuss texts Hayek’s early interpretations of social justice and redistribution, modern philosophers—both Classical Liberal and otherwise—on different approaches to the topic, and debates over the Universal Basic Income from the likes of Peter Boettke and Matt Zwolinski. The conversation will be moderated by William & Mary’s Professor Chris Freiman and will be hosted in the DC area.

Publication Support

Check out our Liberty, Equality, and Redistribution series Learn more | Apply Now

Liberty’s Claims on Man and Citizen in the Life and Writings of Albert Camus
March 25, 2022 — March 27, 2022

Among the 20th century’s most important, interesting, challenging, inspirational, and individualistic philospher’s was Albert Camus. He did not fit comfortably within Existentialism (calling himself a medieval absurdist), contemporary politics, or the American tendency to draw a clean division between the individual and the rest of our social world. This conference, co-sponsored by the IHS and Liberty Fund, will bring together advanced graduate students and faculty to explore the life and works of Camus and the impact his work did, could, and should have had on Classical Liberalism and the modern world. The conversation will be moderated by Chapman University Professor of Political Economy and Philosophy, Michael Moses, and it will be hosted in the DC area.

Check out our Liberty’s Claims on Man and Citizen in the Life and Writings of Albert Camus series Learn more

Economics Meets Its Historiography
April 29, 2022 — May 1, 2022

This series of two programs is designed to showcase what economists can offer other disciplines as well as what we can gain from them. This series was developed in partnership with Dr. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde. Economics Meets its Historiography will be held in person in Philadelphia, PA on April 29th – May 1st. This program will focus on the history of economic thought and explore in-depth the approaches of past thinkers and theories of the firm, wages, prices, and trade. 

Economics Meets Its Historiography series Learn more

What to Expect

discussion colloquia

Participants will receive readers roughly two months in advance of the conference and should come thoroughly prepared to discuss the material. Discussion will be Socratic—that is, question-driven—and will include a range of expertise levels. Discussion Colloquia do not include any lectures, workshops, or presentations. They depend entirely on the quality of discussion each member brings to the table and the questions offered by the discussion leader. A full Discussion Colloquium consists of six sessions of one and a half hours each, and participants are required to attend all sessions as well as all social events (including meals).

Additional Details

  • To be eligible for consideration, participants must either be full-time PhD students or faculty members at a degree-granting college or university.
  • IHS provides accepted participants with all meals and shared housing accommodations for the duration of the seminar, based on dual-occupancy with another participant of the same gender.
  • Accepted participants will be eligible for a travel stipend to cover airfare or ground transportation to and from the seminar.

IHS Discussion Colloquia provide unique opportunities for scholars to explore classical liberal ideas at an advanced level, inspiring and informing further research.

Most importantly, participants will have a chance to meet peers who share their passion for ideas.

If you are new to IHS and would like to take advantage of other IHS resources, you can learn about our scholarship and grant programs here.

For more information, contact DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org.