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The We Society: Ideas to shape the way we live


The We Society: Ideas to shape the way we live

Beyond the politics, beyond our geography, are the intangible connections that hold us together – The We Society. Brought to you by the Academy of Social Sciences, and hosted by Academy president Will Hutton, The We Society podcast tackles the big questions through a social science lens and brings you some of the best ideas to shape the way we live. We asked Will some questions about the show and his influences for the podcast…

Hi Will, tell us a bit about yourself!

Even as a boy I was interested in what kinds of organisation best help people work and live in a fulfilling way that allow their talents to flourish and improve the world in some way – to this day I am not sure why or where the interest came from. Growing up in the 1960s to a backdrop of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Stones must have helped – but I suspect I was born with a social science gene. Let’s apply ourselves really to improving the economy and society as much as dancing in the street (although I like doing that too!) I found I was good at Social Science subjects which led to studying Economics and Sociology at Bristol University which has followed through to be the golden thread in my life – my journalism, my books, the think tanks which I have lead, the policy commissions, heading up an Oxford college and now being President of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Will Hutton the Academy of Social Sciences

How did you get involved in this podcast – where did it all start?

I was brainstorming with the Academy’s CEO Rita Gardner about how to spread the word about social science – she floated the idea of a podcast and I jumped at it. We did the first series last Summer.

Each episode you ask your guests what the ‘We Society’ means to them – what does it mean to you?

Aha. Well I coined the term in the 2021 Campaign for Social Science annual lecture and it’s the cornerstone of a book I am writing. We human beings need each other – we need to associate with one another, work and play together, team up in families and groups, build organisations and institutions together. Yes, the good society must foster individual agency and our taking responsibility for our lives , but within a firm societal framework of “ we” . It is not moral only to care about oneself and one’s individual interests as the hyper libertarians argue. Morality must be about accepting obligations to the whole – delivering a social purpose in some way. The We Society tries to capture that notion – and the role of Social Science in laying out the evidence and the options.

What was the first podcast you ever listened to?

It’s tempting to reply with something high-falutin’, but the honest answer is Joan and Jericha – had me weeping with laughter.

Which podcasts did you take inspiration from?

In terms of the range of subjects we cover, Reasons to be Cheerful, The Rest is History and The Rest is Politics – but we decided to follow Steve Richards and Rock & Roll Politics with just a sole presenter. I like to think that The We Society podcast is carving out a distinctive niche. We give entertaining , enthusiastic but serious experts and policy architects along with the occasional politician, writer or artist, all of whom are burning to make the world better based on really good evidence, a platform to express their ideas but being challenged where necessary – while always looking for an intriguing angle.

The podcast talks about ‘Ideas to shape the way we live’ so is there an episode that has shaped you personally?

Ai Weiwei , the Chinese artist and dissident, dismissing his 81 days in solitary confinement as nothing besides the 5 year horror his father went through – having single-handedly to clear the latrines of a large village everyday with the crudest of implements, never having a day off and living in an underground dug-out. That hit me hard, along with his recognition that the Chinese Communist party uses the We Society to oppress, not liberate – even as he subscribes to our western concept of the We Society. In the wrong hands the concept can be abused. But the overriding thing all the podcasts share is the passion of the social scientists for their subject and their sheer knowledge. It’s inspiring.

Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about the show?

Follow @AcadSocSciences or @williamnhutton on Twitter, check in with your podcast app or go to

The We Society podcast cover

Listen to The We Society on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other popular podcast apps >>

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