Interview with Peter Townsend

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We have put a short extract from a long interview with Peter Townsend on the stories page. Click here…Peter Townsend interview

Here is an even shorter extracts which speaks a little about the troubles of 1968…

The crisis can be seen in large and small terms.   I think, in large terms, there was a sort of revolutionary potential about some of the attitudes and values which we’ve been speaking about, which are a threat to established elites and classes.   It’s almost like saying we were moving too fast into what collective gains and action would mean, and what democratic values, when properly spelt out, would lead to in terms of the organisation of society, including universities.   There was that revolutionary potential, there’s no good getting away from it.   And yet there were smaller issues to do with individual human rights and justice, not smaller in some important particulars of course, but where you can actually obtain restitution and acknowledgement of a dignified position more easily than you can obtain structural change, which is what I was implying a moment ago.   So 1968 was extraordinary, because although, looking back, I’m sure we were, British students were influenced by what was going on on the Continent, it seemed to be something just being taken up in different universities, and certainly students in different universities became very quickly aware of what was going on among them. It started with a protest about Porton Down, and students who attempted to prevent a particular lecture taking place, and the Vice-Chancellor feeling that an example ought to be set, and the student body believing that this was an issue of freedom to protest, and this was such a serious issue that it didn’t fit easily into the customary treatment of protests about other events.   And one thing led to another.   The students were sent down, sent away from the University.   There were appeals, there were protests within the University which escalated to such a degree that a thousand and more people attended some of the assemblies.   I mean, the entire University, including all its staff, attended a few of the meetings.   And this was extraordinary by anyone’s standards, before or since in my career, because although it of course swallowed up time that might otherwise have been given to teaching and learning, and research, it was quite unprecedented to have one’s nose rubbed in the whole business of what kind of society were we living in and working in, and how should it be organised, and who should have a right to have a say, and be involved in a decision that was taken?   And we went through one of these principles after another, and it was very exhilarating, one has to say, I have to say, because it was like going over all the taken-for-granted aspects of professional life, shaking them up, and inviting each of us to re-cast the result.

For more, click on  Peter Townsend Interview

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