Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight Economics Editor and renowned historical author, visited the University of Birmingham last Thursday to deliver a guest lecture in the Aston Webb building.
Entitled 'Power to the People', Mason's lecture was the inaugural event in this year's Undergraduate POLSIS Lecture Series, a new series of political lectures delivered by external speakers specifically organised by students for students.
Delivering to a well-attended lecture theatre of students and faculty staff, Mason focused on the history of labour and used his historical perspectives to relate this topic to the current economic climate.
Beginning with the reference that 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the 'Great Unrest', a series of global labour uprisings at the beginning of the 20th century, Mason opined that the world is currently experiencing a fundamental shift in attitudes.
He said he believed that people's perceptions of politics and their political activism is drastically changing, a shift timely demonstrated by the current unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.
Focusing on what he called the 'graduate with no future' (someone who recently graduated with high debt and poor job prospects) Mason described three key factors behind both the upheaval seen in Arab nations and the ongoing student demonstrations against the increase in tuition fees.
He listed these as the 'social', focusing on students and the urban poor, 'technology' and the impact social networking has had on citizen's ability to politically participate and, thirdly, 'behaviour'.
Mason said when these three factors converge with enough momentum they can be a powerful force for change on behalf of ordinary people.
However, Mason was keen to highlight what he sees as the dwindling power of traditional trade unions.
He finished his lecture, before taking questions, by encouraging his audience to think about 'where does it go from here?'
The questions put to the author focused mainly on the student movement in the UK and that his thoughts and advice were on increasing student participation in current protests.