Birmingham Salon

Aspects of the Omnicrisis

 Saturday 28th January, 1.00 pm - 5.00 pm

The Arthur Sullivan Room, Birmingham Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BU

Tickets £15 available at the event (cash only) or via EventBrite

National interest and global order - which comes first?

1.15 pm - 2.45 pm

The invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was a shock to the system of international relations. There was surprise that Russia believes its action serves its national interest and that we are seeing Europe once again threatened with war. The decades-long attempt to manage conflict and operate a rules-based order through supranational organisations like the UN, NATO and the EU was supposed prevent another world war. 

The supranational system and its ideals is also a way for the United States to pursue its own national interests. It does this despite its relative economic decline, by political and military means in the guise of freedom and human rights promoting respectability. This year it has also been pushing these interests more openly, from imposing sanctions on Chinese technology companies and capitalising on the energy crisis in Europe to taking advantage of the strength of the dollar in international trade.  

The war in Ukraine has not undermined supranational institutions which still have the support of the most powerful world leaders. Going it alone doesn’t look like an attractive option. NATO seems to be stronger than ever in most of Europe where many feel threatened by Russia. When British Prime Minister Truss tried to follow a new economic policy, she was soon forced to resign after the IMF commented negatively. When her successor Sunak suggested that he had better things to do than attend the COP27 climate conference such was the criticism, he quickly changed his mind. 

What is the significance of recent events in the tug of war between supranational institutions and nation states? What ideas might guide international relations in the future? As the war drags on in Ukraine, impacts Europe and conflicts break out in other countries bordering Russia, is it possible to agree a system that will operate to prevent future conflicts. Or would this inevitably be a cover for the most powerful nations to impose their will on others? As politicians and policy continue to be influenced by supranational organisations, is national sovereignty an illusion or more important than ever?


Dr Philip Cunliffe, Associate Professor in International Relations, University College London; author, The New Twenty Years’ Crisis 1999-2019: A critique of international relations; co-host, @Bungacast podcast

Dr Jake Scott, political theorist specialising in theories of peoplehood and populism. Jake has appeared on France24, GB News, and is a regular on TalkTV;


Dave Aveston

How to prevent World War III, Philip Cunliffe, UnHerd
Whatever happened to the national interest, Pete Ramsay & Philip Cunliffe, The Northern Star

Break: tea/coffee (included in ticket price) 2.45 - 3.15 pm

Reparations, industrial revolution: how should poor nations develop in the 21st century?

3.15 pm - 4.45 pm

During the Enlightenment period of the 18th century, the emerging system of industrial capitalism was largely greeted with enthusiasm.  It was thought that, over time, industry would bring wealth to all and that the gap between rich and poor nations would gradually decline.  

Clearly this dream has not been realised; if anything the trend has been in the opposite direction.  The Covid pandemic and responses to it is part of the reason for this. Previous explanations for uneven development have ranged from crudely racist ones, cultural and geographical factors, naked exploitation and the exigencies of cold war politics.  Behind even the most despicable of these explanations, however, there always lay an understanding that, at least in principle, the poor world ought to be allowed to catch up and that worldwide industrial development of the kind seen in the West would be in the interests of humanity as a whole. But this thinking has changed. At COP27 it was clear that the industrial revolution is now viewed as the first step on the path to the climate emergency. 

Do climate change and other environmental impacts of industrial development mean we have come up against a natural barrier beyond which it is no longer possible to go?  Is it now necessary to restrain growth in order to avoid destroying the planet, and what will that mean for billions of people in conditions of extreme poverty? Should they not enjoy the high standards of living modern society has shown are possible? Are Western environmentalist ideals just another form of colonialism or do they offer a different pathway, learning from previous mistakes and sparing people from catastrophe? Could loss and damage payments from the rich countries be part of a better route to development or are they tokenistic in the bigger scheme of changes that poor countries need?


Austin Williams, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Kingston School of Art; author China's Urban Revolution:Understanding Chinese Eco-cities

John Vogler, Professorial Research Fellow in International Relations, University of Keele; author Climate Change in World Politics


Chrissie Daz  


The global south has the power to force radical climate action, Jason Hickel, Al Jazeera