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Talking Politics: HISTORY OF IDEAS
40 minutes | May 8, 2021
History of Ideas Q and A
A special episode in which David answers some of the audience's questions about the second series of History of Ideas. From how he chooses which writers and works to talk about, to whether Boris Johnson is the ultimate Benthamite and whether the idea of a pleasure machine isn't - in fact - totally rational. We really enjoyed making these podcasts for people to enjoy during lockdown. To support History of Ideas and Talking Politics, you can become a member by clicking here. For £3 a month, you can enjoy Talking Politics without adverts in the middle of the discussions. Thank you for listening! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
46 minutes | Apr 20, 2021
Shklar on Hypocrisy
Judith Shklar’s Ordinary Vices (1984) made the case that the worst of all the vices is cruelty. But that meant we needed to be more tolerant of some other common human failings, including snobbery, betrayal and hypocrisy. David explores what she had to say about some of the other authors in this series – including Bentham and Nietzsche – and asks what price we should be willing to pay for putting cruelty first among the vices.Recommended version to buyGoing Deeper:David Runciman, Political Hypocrisy (2008)Katrina Forrester, ‘Hope and Memory in the thought of Judith Shklar’, Modern Intellectual History (2011)Samantha Ashenden and Andreas Hess, 'The Theorist of Belonging', Aeon (2020)[Audio]: 'The Moral Philosophy of the Good Place,' Vox See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
46 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
Nozick on Utopia
Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974) was designed as a rebuttal to Rawls but it was so much more than that. It offered a defence of the minimal state that appealed to the writers of The Sopranos and a vision of utopia that appealed to the founders of Silicon Valley. David explores what Nozick wanted to achieve and identifies the surprising radicalism behind his political minimalism.Recommended version to buy Going Deeper:Robert Nozick, The Examined Life (1989)Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick: Property, Justice and the Minimal State (1991)Stephen Metcalf, ‘The Liberty Scam’, Slate (2011)[Video] Shelly Kagan, 'Hedonism and Nozick's Experience Machine' (from Open Yale Courses) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
48 minutes | Apr 6, 2021
Rawls on Justice
John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971) changed the face of modern political philosophy by reinventing the question of what constitutes fairness. From ‘the veil of ignorance’ to ‘reflective equilibrium’ it introduced new ways of thinking about the problem of justice along with new problems for thinking about politics. David discusses Rawls’s influence on what happened next.Recommended version to buyMichael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982, 1998) Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family (1989)Katrina Forrester, In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy (2019)[Audio]: 'John Rawls' A Theory of Justice,' BBC Radio 3, Arts & Ideas See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
49 minutes | Mar 30, 2021
De Beauvoir on the Other
Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) is one of the founding texts of modern feminism and one of the most important books of the twentieth century. It covers everything from ancient myth to modern psychoanalysis to ask what the relations between men and women have in common with other kinds of oppression, from slavery to colonialism. It also offers some radical suggestions for how both women and men can be liberated from their condition.Recommended version to buyGoing Deeper: Madeline Gobeil, ‘Simone de Beauvoir, The Art of Fiction No. 35,’ The Paris Review (1965)Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails (2016) Kate Kirkpatrick, Becoming Beauvoir (2019) [Audio]: Simone de Beauvoir, In Our Time See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
48 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Schumpeter on Democracy
Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) contains a famous, and minimal, definition of democracy as the competition between political elites to sell themselves to the electorate. Schumpeter wanted to debunk more elevated ideas of the common good and the popular will. Why then has his theory proved so influential for people who want to rescue democracy as much as those who want to diminish it?Recommended version to buyGoing Deeper:Ian Shapiro, The State of Democratic Theory (2006)Thomas K. McCraw, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction (2007)Jill Lepore, ‘The Disruption Machine, New Yorker (2014)(Audio): Creative Destruction, BBC Radio 4 See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
46 minutes | Mar 16, 2021
Schmitt on Friend vs Enemy
Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political (1932) has been hugely influential on the left as well as the right of political debate despite the fact that its author joined the Nazi Party shortly after its publication. David explores the origins of Schmitt’s ideas in the debates about the Weimar Republic and examines his critique of liberal democracy. He asks what Schmitt’s distinction between friend and enemy has to teach us about democratic politics today.Recommended version to buyGoing Deeper: Jan-Werner Mueller, A Dangerous Mind: CarlSchmitt in Post-War European Thought (2003)Tamsin Shaw, ‘William Barr: The Carl Schmitt ofOur Time,’ New York Review of Books (2020)Chang Che, ‘The Nazi Inspiring China’s Communists,’ The Atlantic (2020)(Audio): Carl Schmitt on Liberalism See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
46 minutes | Mar 9, 2021
Luxemburg on Revolution
Rosa Luxemburg wrote ‘The Russian Revolution’ (1918) from a jail cell in Germany. In it she described how the Bolshevik revolution was going to change the world but also explained how and why it was already going badly wrong. David explores the origins of Luxemburg’s insights, from her experiences in Poland to her love/hate relationship with Lenin. Plus he tells the story of her terrible end.Free version to downloadRecommended version to buyGoing Deeper:Vladimir Lenin, ‘What Is to be Done?’ (1902)Hannah Arendt, ‘A Heroine of Revolution,’ The New York Review of Books (1966)Kate Evans, Red Rosa (2015)(Audio): In Our Time, 'Rosa Luxemburg' (2017) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
47 minutes | Mar 2, 2021
Nietzsche on Morality
Friedrich Nietzsche’s masterpiece The Genealogy of Morality (1887) sets out to explain where ideas of good and evil come from and why they have left human beings worse off. He traces their origins in what he calls the slave revolt in morality. David examines the ways Nietzsche’s story unsettles almost everything about modern social conventions and leaves us with the troubling question: what can possibly come next?Free versionRecommended version to buyGoing deeper:John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are (2018)Sue Prideaux, I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche (2018)Alex Ross, 'Nietzsche's Eternal Return,' The New Yorker (2019)(Audio): In Our Time, 'Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality (2017) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
47 minutes | Feb 23, 2021
Butler on Machines
Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) is a strange and unsettling book about a world turned upside down. Usually classified as utopian or dystopian fiction, it also contains an eerie prophecy about the coming of intelligent machines. David explores the origins of Butler’s ideas and asks what they have to teach us about the oddity of how we choose to organise our societies, both then and now.Free version of the textRecommended version to buyGoing Deeper:Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903)Virginia Woolf, 'Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown' (1924)George Dyson, Darwin Among the Machines (1997)(Video) James Paradis, 'Naturalism and Utopia: Samuel Butler's Erewhon' See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
47 minutes | Feb 16, 2021
Douglass on Slavery
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) by the former slave Frederick Douglass was the second of his three autobiographies and the one that contained his most radical ideas. In this episode David explores how Douglass used his life story not only to expose the horror of slavery but to champion a new approach to abolishing it. The name for this approach: politics.Free version of the textRecommended version to buy Going deeper.....David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018)Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997)Colum McCann, TransAtlantic (2013)(Audio): Jamelle Bouie, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Rebecca Onion, 'Who Should Tell the Story of American Slavery?' (2015) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
48 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
Bentham on Pleasure
Jeremy Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation is a definitive early statement of the basis of utilitarianism: how do we achieve the greatest happiness of the greatest number? David looks at Bentham’s rationale for this approach and the many criticisms it has faced. Bentham has often been accused of reducing politics to mechanical calculation and missing what really matters. But given the time in which he was writing, wasn’t the prioritisation of pleasure the most radical idea of all?Free online version of textRecommended version to purchaseGoing deeper…Philip Lucas and Anne Sheeran, ‘Asperger’s Syndrome and the Eccentricity and Genius of Jeremy Bentham’ (2006)Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1975) Thomas McMullan, ‘What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?’, The Guardian (2015)(Audio) In Our Time, Utilitarianism See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
48 minutes | Feb 2, 2021
Rousseau on Inequality
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (also known as the Second Discourse) tells the story of all human history to answer one simple question: how did we end up in such an unequal world? David explores the steps Rousseau traces in the fall of humankind and asks whether this is a radical alternative to the vision offered by Hobbes or just a variant on it. Is Rousseau really such a nice philosopher?Free online version of textRecommended version to purchaseGoing deeper…Leo Damrosch, Jean Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius (2005)David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Rousseau’s Dog (2007)Pankaj Mishra, ‘How Rousseau predicted Trump’, The New Yorker (2016)(Audio) In Our Time, The Social Contract See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
50 minutes | Jul 3, 2020
Q & A with David
We got lots and lots of excellent questions from listeners about the themes and ideas in this series of talks. In this extra episodeDavid will do his best to answer some of them, from Hobbes to Weber, and from Gandhi to feminism. Plus he talks about what's missing from this series and where we might start next time.Go to https://www.talkingpoliticspodcast.com/history-of-ideas for the full collection of reading lists.Quentin Skinner on the state:(Video) Quentin Skinner, ‘What is the state? The question that will not go away’Orwell on Gandhi:https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/reflections-on-gandhi/ See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
48 minutes | May 25, 2020
Fukuyama on History
Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992) became associated with the triumph of liberal democracy at the end of the twentieth century. But was Fukuyama really a triumphalist? David explores what Fukuyama had to say about the strengths and weaknesses of liberal democracy and asks whether his analysis still holds true today. What have we learned about the modern state from its history? And can it, and we, really change now?Recommended version to purchase: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/133/13399/the-end-of-history-and-the-last-man/9780241960240.htmlGoing Deeper:Paul Hirst for the LRB on ‘Endism’Fukuyama at the 2020 Munich Security ConferenceFukuyama on the 2016 presidential electionLouis Menand, ‘Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History,’ The New Yorker.Talking Politics with Fukuyama See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
45 minutes | May 22, 2020
MacKinnon on Patriarchy
Catharine MacKinnon’s Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989) challenges two dominant ways of thinking about politics: liberalism, which wants to protect us from the power of the state, and Marxism, which wants to liberate us through the power of the state. What if neither is good enough to emancipate women? Mackinnon explains why patriarchal power permeates all forms of modern politics. Daviddiscusses what she thinks we can do about it.Recommended version to purchase: Catharine A. MacKinnon, Toward a feminist theory of the state (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).Going Deeper:Lorna Finlayson in the LRB on Catharine MacKinnon, feminism, and the lawCatharine A. MacKinnon, Sexual harassment of working women: a case of sex discrimination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979).Drucilla Cornell, ‘Sexual difference, the feminine, and equivalency: a critique of MacKinnon’s Toward a feminist theory of the state’, Yale Law Journal, vol. 100, no. 7, article 12.The NYTimes on Catharine MacKinnon and sexual harassmentCatharine Mackinnon for The Atlantic on #MeToo See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
42 minutes | May 18, 2020
Fanon on Colonialism
Frantz Fanon was a psychiatrist who both experienced and analysed the impact of colonial violence. In The Wretched of the Earth (1961) he developed an account of politics that sought to channel violent resistance to colonialism as a force for change. It is a deliberately shocking book. David explores what Fanon’s argument says about the possibility of moving beyond the power of the modern state.Free online version of the text:http://abahlali.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Frantz-Fanon-The-Wretched-of-the-Earth-1965.pdfRecommended version to purchase: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/573/57385/the-wretched-of-the-earth/9780141186542.htmlGoing Deeper:Megan Vaughan for the LRB on Fanon and psychiatry in North AfricaFrantz Fanon, Toward the African revolution: political essaysFrantz Fanon, Black skin, white masks (New York, NY: Grove Press, 2008).(Video) Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers [film] (1966)Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Preface’, in Frantz Fanon, The wretched of the earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 2001)Alice Cherki, Frantz Fanon: a portrait, Nadia Benabid, trans. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006). See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
45 minutes | May 15, 2020
Arendt on Action
Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958) is a remarkably prophetic book. At its heart is an analysis of the relationship between labour, work and action, set against a time of rapid technological change. Arendt worried about the power of computers, believed in the capacity of people to reinvent themselves through politics and despaired of the influence of Thomas Hobbes. Was she right?Recommended version to purchase: https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo29137972.htmlGoing Deeper:James Miller in the LRB on Hannah ArendtHannah Arendt, The Origins of TotalitarianismHannah Arendt, Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of EvilIn Our Time on Hannah ArendtMatthew Beard for the Guardian, ‘With Robots, is a life without work one we’d want to live?’ See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
45 minutes | May 11, 2020
Hayek on the Market
Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) was written during the Second World War but Hayek was really worried about what would come next. He feared that wartime planning would spill over into the peacetime economy and destroy hard won freedoms. David explores where Hayek’s fears came from and asks why he worried that democracy would only make the problem worse. He also considers what makes Hayek such a politically influential and divisive figure to this day.Free online version of the text:https://archive.org/details/TheRoadToSerfdom/page/n7/mode/2upRecommended version to purchase: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-road-to-serfdom/f-a-hayek/9780415253895Going Deeper: Geoffrey Hawthorn on Hayek and his overcoat for the LRB F.A. Hayek, ‘Individualism: True and False’ Andrew Gamble, Hayek: The iron cage of liberty (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996)Stephen Metcalf in The Guardian, ‘Neoliberalism: The Idea that Swallowed the World’ Hayek vs. KeynesMatt Ridley, The rational optimist: how prosperity evolves (London: Fourth Estate 2011) See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
45 minutes | May 8, 2020
Weber on Leadership
Max Weber’s The Profession and Vocation of Politics (1919) was a lecture that became one of the defining texts of twentieth century political thought. In it, Weber explores the perils and paradoxes of leadership in a modern state. Is it possible to do bad in order to do good? Can violence ever be virtuous? Does political responsibility send politicians mad? David discusses the legacy of Weber’s ideas and asks: who is the true Weberian politician?Free online version of the text: http://fs2.american.edu/dfagel/www/class%20readings/weber/politicsasavocation.pdfRecommended version to purchase: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Weber-Political-Writings-Cambridge-History/dp/0521397197Going Deeper:Geoffrey Hawthorn on Max Weber for the LRBJoachim Radkau, Max Weber (Polity, 2009)Talking Politics on ‘Politics as a Vocation’ with Jonathan PowellJan-Werner Müller, Contesting democracy: political ideas in twentieth century Europe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013)David for the LRB on Weber, Tony Blair, and the politics of good intentions See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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