We have had a rich afternoon’s discussions. Our guest speaker, Professor Hans Boutellier, treated us to a fascinating and thought-provoking analysis of what he has termed the ‘improvisation society’. Boutellier’s recent book on the theme (alas, not yet available in translation) is meant in part, he explained, to try and understand the rise of populism. I cannot do justice to his lecture here but I’ll attempt a brief summary of his analysis. Three main developments – internationalisation, individualisation and informatisation – have had two consequences – the disappearance of solid social structures and the rise of institutional complexity, leading to a world characterised by complexity without direction. This impression of chaos creates frustration with politicians and professionals, feelings of insecurity and frustration and desires for certainty and stability, for moral direction and social order. Hence the attractiveness of the populist answers which are a) ‘safe new world’ and b) ‘the heartland’ (which Boutellier memorably described as ‘a place where things are still as they never were’. He believes that the rise of the network society is an important part of the potential response to populism. As he put it, ‘networks are not a source of complexity but a way of dealing with it.’ Fascinating stuff.