London: a city of humanism and power

M. Bevir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article explores the ethos of London through a mixture of public history and personal memoir. London has long been dominated by a broadly humanist culture, with a blend of wit, tolerance, and affection, found in writers from Chaucer to Dickens and on to William Morris. In addition, of course, London is a site of enormous political and financial power; an imperial capital that ruled over territories across the globe. The centers of power–the City and West End–are surrounded by a series of urban villages where a lively humanism is found in street markets, banter, and pubs. This balance is, however, not always harmonious. On the contrary, the humanism constantly unsettles the power, erupting in everyday hooliganism and mass riots, and the colonial provinces regularly unsettle the imperial center through terrorism and political protests. I conclude by suggesting that this interplay of power and humanism might be both a perennial feature of the human comedy and a cultural achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-666
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (CRISPP)
Issue number5
Early online date29 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2022

JEL classifications

  • f50 - International Relations and International Political Economy: General


  • city
  • humanism
  • London
  • multiculturalism
  • power

Cite this