Questions of Authority, Persuasion, and Belief: An Interview with Richard Sennett

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In this wide-ranging interview, Richard Sennett, Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and University Professor of the Humanities at New York University, talks to Daniel Pick about his ideas on ‘thought reform’, truth, narrative and belief. The conversation focuses on his innovative study Authority (1980), and a key idea developed in that work: ‘disobedient dependence’. He also considers the nature of involuntary and voluntary confession, sketches the particular techniques of interviewing he has developed, and how they were spurred by the work of the Frankfurt School on the concept of the ‘authoritarian personality’. The interview touches on Richard Sennett’s encounters with two influential post-war writers on ‘thought reform’: Erik Erikson, and Robert Jay Lifton, in addition to Michel Foucault.

The film was made by the Derek Jarman Lab.