The Academy Online: psychology and democracy

Saturday 20 June

The Academy is the boi charity’s annual, residential event where people from all walks of life gather together to cultivate themselves with lectures and seminars, based around good books, and in good company. Whilst the regular, collegiate atmosphere of The Academy is sadly not possible this year, we will still be gathering curious minds together on the original date of the scheduled event, Saturday 20 June – but we will be meeting online via Zoom.

The Academy Online is an unprecedented opportunity for people from around the world to join for a day of lectures and discussion via Zoom. Next year, The Academy will return to its regular format and we look forward to the social interaction resuming.


This year, we will attempt to place contemporary events in a historical and philosophical context. At the moment, those in authority are concerned about how to ‘control the narrative’. They look to behavioural scientists and epidemiologists to understand and shape collective behaviour. We will be examining how psychological categories came to occupy such an important role in public life. We will look at why intellectuals and social planners become increasingly attracted by psychology as a way of explaining the decisions – and supposed deficiencies – of the general public.

We will look at the evolution of ‘crowd psychology’ from its origins in Gustave Le Bon’s influential writings. We will see how these ideas find expression in the works of Sigmund Freud, and their influence over postwar intellectuals such as the Frankfurt school. Our discussions will bring things up to the present day through the debates about the advertising industry’s attempts to use psychology to manipulate the masses and by examining modern-day ‘nudge’ theories. And we will also turn to literature to investigate how psychological theories inspired utopian dreams of social order and control, as well as exacerbating the division between ‘nature’ and ‘unnatural’ modern life.


This is a free event via Zoom, with a suggested donation of £25 to the boi charity. Please visit our donations page to find out how to support us.

Please register via Eventbrite and we will send the Zoom link shortly before the event.


10.30 – 10.45
Introduction and welcome
James Panton

10.45 – 12.00
Lecture one:
The frightful crowd: the psychology of ‘the masses’
Jacob Reynolds

12.30 – 13.45
Book club shorts

  • Option A:
    BF Skinner, Walden Two
    Dr Helene Guldberg
  • Option B:
    DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
    Ella Whelan
  • Option C:
    Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders
    Professor James Woudhuysen

14.00 – 15.15
Lecture two:
Scientism and the Manufacture of Consent: then and now
Frank Furedi


Gustave le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind
buy this book from Amazon here

Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents
buy this book from Amazon here

Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics
read the original essay at Harper’s

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
buy this book from Amazon here

DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
buy this book from Amazon here

Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders
buy this book from Amazon here

BF Skinner, Walden Two
buy this book from Amazon here