The Discourse Initiative

At the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), we believe in the classical liberal vision of the good society: a tolerant and pluralistic society in which intellectual and economic progress are the norm, and where individuals and communities flourish in a context of openness, voluntary and peaceful cooperation, and mutual respect.

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.

Scholars interested in talking through this initiative and related opportunities may express interest by emailing or by filling out the form below.

We’re witnessing tectonic shifts in the ideological landscape that challenge this vision. At a time when many assumed that basic liberal principles such as the inherent dignity of every individual, equality before the law, and constitutionally constrained democracy had won the so-called “battle of ideas,” we are seeing troubling signs that illiberalism in politics and culture are on the rise. Within the academy, serious scholars on the left and right are raising the question: Has liberalism failed? Liberal principles that were once assumed to be commonly understood and supported across the academy are now contested and subject to serious critique.

Discourse Initiative

This is why IHS is launching The Discourse Initiative, a series of conversations—in-person and written—aimed at drawing scholarly attention back to the liberal tradition from those who may have thought that liberalism no longer needed their attention.

These conversations will gather scholars across the ideological spectrum who believe that the liberal tradition, broadly understood, is central to achieving the good society.

How Faculty Can Get Involved

IHS is eager to support and partner with scholars who see the exploration of ideas within the liberal tradition as an intellectual adventure.  IHS offers support for faculty research, on-campus programs, curriculum development, and discussion-based collaborative programs with other scholars.

Faculty Resources Available through The Discourse Initiative:

IHS is particularly interested in supporting research and scholarly conversations 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 expression 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.

Liberalism in Times of Crisis

Including the proper role of government in a crisis and how to balance competing goals, such as public health and safety, with civil liberties, the rule of law, and economic freedom in an emergency.