Discussion Colloquia

About Our Discussion Colloquia

Discussion Colloquia offer faculty and graduate students an opportunity to learn from each other by participating in structured discussions of key texts in the classical liberal tradition selected for their intellectual rigor and relevance to a theme. Discussion Colloquia are hosted in partnership with faculty or academic centers at hotels or university campuses across the country.

Programs are typically multi-day events that include four to six 90-minute sessions and 200 to 300 pages of reading.

Participants receive an honorarium, a travel stipend, all meals, and lodging for their contributions.

As part of its Discourse Initiative, IHS is particularly interested in supporting research or facilitating programs in the following general categories:

  • Liberalism and Its Critics, including engagement with and response to critiques from both ends of the ideological spectrum.
  • Key Challenges within a Free Society, such as tensions between liberty and equality, dynamism and disruption, and freedom of speech and social cohesion.
  • Cultural Challenges within Liberal Society, such as protections for minority rights, the pace of change in an increasingly digital and globalized world, and the cultural requirements of a tolerant and pluralistic society.
  • Contentious Topics within the Liberal Tradition, including negative vs. positive rights, moral obligations within the liberal order, and contested meanings of liberal principles such as justice, equality, and democracy.

IHS welcomes applications and proposals on these or other related topics from scholars in all disciplines, including economics, history, political science, philosophy, PPE, law, literature, business, sociology, psychology, and the visual and performing arts. Scholars can visit the pages listed above for more information and to apply directly to their program(s) of interest.

Email us at Discourse@TheIHS.org to learn more or explore potential opportunities for collaboration with IHS.

January 24-25, 2020 in Fort Worth, TX

elinor-ostrom discussion colloquia

Introduction to Law and Economics Through the Work of Elinor Ostrom

This colloquium explores the work of Elinor Ostrom as it relates to the importance of public choice. In particular, the role of self-governance in effectively caring for the commons will be examined by delving into such topics as polycentrism, public entrepreneurship and collective action. Discussion sessions are designed to bridge the gap between Ostrom’s work and legal scholarship, while inspiring further research in this area.

Sessions will be expertly framed by Dr. Liya Palagashvili.

February 7-9, 2020 in Arlington, VA

artificial intelligence discussion colloquia

Artificial Intelligence and Liberal Futurism

Many of society’s leading engineers and computer scientists believe our world is on the brink of an intelligence explosion which will break and remake our civilization(s) in ways none of us will be able to predict. How can classical liberals prepare for this rapid expansion of intelligence and help contribute to ensuring it is a humanitarian success? How can we respond to potential catastrophes or doomsday scenarios which become all the more likely as technology becomes more powerful?

We are no longer accepting applications for the Artificial Intelligence and Liberal Futurism Discussion Colloquium at this time.

February 21-23, 2020 in Arlington, VA

Discussion Colloquia

Sociology and the Classical Liberal Tradition

This colloquium brings together a small group of esteemed sociologists to explore the classical liberal tradition within sociology by delving into such topics as classical sociology, mass incarceration, post-socialist societies, economic sociology, and more. This viewpoint-diverse group will also explore opportunities for rebuilding an appreciation of the classical liberal tradition in sociology.

This program was created in partnership with Dr. Fabio Rojas, who will also be acting as Discussion Leader.

March 27-29, 2020 in Washington, DC

History of Capitalism

The purpose of this colloquium is to better understand recent trends in the study of the history of capitalism, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the New History of Capitalism, and to ponder how scholars should define capitalism more broadly. The agenda will include topics such as the “old” and “new” history of capitalism, capitalism and slavery, big business, competition and the state, finance, and inequality. Participants will be encouraged to discuss how they might approach the history of capitalism in their own work.

This program was conceptualized by and created in partnership with Dr. David Sicilia.

March 27-29, 2020 in Arlington, VA

Intersectionality Individualism

Intersectionality and Individualism

Is it possible to theoretically and practically merge the intersectional and individualistic methods in the social sciences? Does one imply the other, or can scholars understand human behavior either without reference to individuals or without reference to the intersections of an individual’s many different identities? This seminar will explore the contemporary concept of intersectionality and its place within a framework of methodological individualism, with particular emphasis on gender, race, religion, sexual identity, and individual agency.

April 3-5, 2020 in Chicago, IL


Religious Liberty at the Crossroads

This colloquium explores current academic debates on religious liberty with a view toward encouraging open and respectful dialogue between proponents of diverse perspectives. Religious pluralism, freedom of conscience, and the conflict between religious liberty and equal protection are among the topics that will be examined.

This program was conceptualized by and created in partnership with Dr. Barbara A. McGraw of Saint Mary’s College of California.

April 24-26, 2020 in Arlington, VA


Liberty, Responsibility, and Mental Health

Only individuals act and all individual actions accumulate into social movements, social institutions, or social problems. If classical liberals hope to maintain the freest societies possible, we will also have to advocate for the healthiest and most capable individual minds possible. This seminar will explore the rich and understudied tradition of caring for mental health within classical liberalism from the English Civil Wars and Restoration period right up through the present day. Participants will explore historical and current understandings of mental health, ways for individuals to become healthier decision-makers, and the ways a liberal worldview can positively contribute to individual and social health and wellness.

May 27th-29th in Washington, DC

Civil Society and Pluralism in Smith, Hume, and Burke

Civil Society and Pluralism in Smith, Hume, and Burke

The purpose of this colloquium is to introduce scholars, policy makers and practitioners associated with the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University to seminal texts in the classical liberal intellectual tradition, while providing Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) scholars with a more concrete understanding of those texts as they apply to current debates about the modern administrative state.

This program was conceptualized by and developed in partnership with Prof. Adam White.

Have an Idea for Your Own Discussion Colloquium?

Please contact us at DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org for more information and include the following: a current CV, a detailed description of the program topic, and the dates that you have in mind for the program.



See What You Missed from Our Previous Discussion Colloquia

Ideological Bias in the Classroom November 8-9th, 2019 in Washington, DC