The symposium circled around the questions that have animated, and troubled us, from the start of beginning this group. Not only an interest in how authority is enacted in institutional spaces, in public space, in the political sphere, in cultural forms. But also a concern for the political void filled by charismatic voices, a curiosity directed at the cultural forms, in all their contingency, that gather authority. Circling around the event was the voice of Nigel Farage, possibly at the peak of his powers then, and the “yes, well” of Boris Johnson; figures whose authority is derived, as Jonathon Coe so nicely argued, from their capacity to channel the ridicule they produce.
In the months since the event I have, once again, become closely aware of where these questions apply, and how our failure to answer them leaves us clasping, in so many cases, to the arrogance of the weak. The absence of an international authority to anchor regulation that might affect climate change. The call to experience a form of ecstatic subjectivity through an atavistic interpretation of religious life – and it is perhaps the call to young westerners, as much as the spectacle of violence, that places this on our newsstands. The crumbling moral authority of debt, yet we cannot imagine a financial system, and as such a social system, without it. Authority is, by all accounts, at the centre of our political, financial and societal questions, yet nonetheless considered marginal, inasmuch as we experience the world as without authority.