Ogni anno, a partire dal 1948, la BBC invita un personaggio di rilievo a tenere un ciclo di conferenze per la radio (BBC Radio 4). Questi prestigiosi cicli di conferenze sono noti come Reith Lectures.
La serie delle Reith Lectures fu inaugurata nel 1948 dal filosofo inglese Bertrand Russell con un ciclo di sei trasmissioni intitolato Authority and the Individual.
- Social Cohesion and Human Nature (trasmissione andata in onda il 24 dicembre 1948) – In his first lecture Russell explores the role of impulses in human nature. He charts the way these impulses have manifested themselves throughout history, from very primitive communities through to more ‘civilised’ societies.
- Social Cohesion and Government (trasmissione andata in onda il 2 gennaio 1949) – In his second lecture Russell examines how forms of social cohesion have developed throughout history and considers the effects of increasing state control, as exemplified by Soviet Russia.
- The Role of Individuality (trasmissione andata in onda il 9 gennaio 1949) – In his third lecture Russell considers the importance of individual initiative to a community, and argues for flexibility, local autonomy, and less centralisation in society. Modern organisations, he says, must be more flexible and less oppressive to the human spirit if life is to be saved from boredom.
- The Conflict of Technique and Human Nature (trasmissione andata in onda il 9 gennaio 1949) – In his fourth lecture Russell examines what part human nature has played in the development of civilised society, and argues that poverty, suffering and cruelty are no longer necessary to the existence of civilisation. He believes these can be eliminated with the help of modern science, provided it operates in a humane spirit, and with an understanding of the springs of happiness and life.
- Control and Initiative: Their Respective Spheres (trasmissione andata in onda il 23 gennaio 1949) – In his penultimate Reith lecture Bertrand Russell considers which matters should be controlled by the state in a healthy and progressive society, and what should be left to private initiative. He argues that in our complex world, there cannot be fruitful initiative without government, but nor can there be government without initiative.
- Individual and Social Ethics (trasmissione andata in onda il 30 gennaio 1949) – In his final lecture Russell relates social and political doctrines to the individual ethics by which people guide their personal lives. He argues that Man needs a sense of personal morality to guide his conduct, and must learn to be critical of tribal customs and beliefs that may be generally accepted amongst his neighbours. Primitive impulses, he says, can find harmless outlets in adventure and creation. He suggests that Man has always been subject to two miseries: firstly, those imposed by external nature which are now largely diminished by science; and secondly, those that men inflict on each other, such as through war. Russell rejects the argument that human nature demands war, believing instead that the greed for possession will lessen as the fear of destitution is removed from society.