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Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Start the Week BBC

    • Gesellschaft und Kultur

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

    Rebuilding conservatism in changing times

    Rebuilding conservatism in changing times

    Nick Timothy was once described as the ‘toxic’ power behind Theresa May’s early leadership. He talks to Amol Rajan about his experience in frontline government. In his new book, Remaking One Nation, he calls for the rebuilding of a more inclusive conservatism and the rejection of both extreme economic and cultural liberalism. As the Covid-19 pandemic forces the government to take more extreme measures, Timothy argues for a new social contract between the state, big companies and local communities.

    In recent decades politicians have had to deal with what appears to be an extreme pace of change – in new technology, global markets and increased automation. The Great Acceleration, as it’s been called, has left many communities feeling left behind. But in his forthcoming book, Slowdown, Professor Danny Dorling argues that there's actually been a widespread check on growth and speed of change. He sees this as a moment of promise and a move toward stability. But that stability may be short-lived as the fall out from the coronavirus hits individuals, communities and businesses hard.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 41 Min.
    Famous and Infamous

    Famous and Infamous

    We think of our era as the age of celebrity. Billions of people follow the daily antics of the Kardashian family or the latest pop superstar. But celebrity obsession is centuries old, argues Horrible Histories writer Greg Jenner. He tells Tom Sutcliffe why we are captivated by famous - and infamous - figures, from the scandalous Lord Byron to the unwitting civilians who are hounded by paparazzi today.

    The Italian Renaissance gave us the world's most famous images: the Mona Lisa, Botticelli's Venus and Michelangelo's David. But Catherine Fletcher argues that this era was far stranger, darker and more violent than we may realise. The real Mona Lisa was married to a slave-trader, and Leonardo da Vinci was revered for his weapon designs.

    The artist Aubrey Beardsley shocked and delighted Victorian London with his drawings. A new exhibition at the Tate Britain, curated by Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, shows the range of Beardsley's black-and-white images. Some are magical, humorous, some sexual and grotesque; and together they helped Beardsley become so astonishingly famous that the 1890s were dubbed the 'Beardsley era', before he fell from grace, tainted by association with Oscar Wilde.

    Producer: Hannah Sander

    • 41 Min.
    Cultural icons from Shakespeare to Superman

    Cultural icons from Shakespeare to Superman

    Shakespeare has always been central to the American experience, argues the leading scholar James Shapiro. He tells Tom Sutcliffe how Shakespeare has been invoked – and at times weaponised – at pivotal moments in the history of America, from Revolutionary times to today’s divisionary politics.

    The film critic Mark Kermode celebrates another global phenomenon: cinematic superheroes. The genre stretches back more than eight decades and taps deeply into timeless themes and storytelling traditions. Kermode also shows how spy-heroes such as Bond have shaped our political identity.

    For the poet Don Paterson, the classic television series The Twilight Zone was the starting point for his latest collection. Elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy provide a backdrop to his exploration of the mid-life crisis.

    The political theorist Teresa Bejan returns to the world of Shakespeare to explore what appears to be the most modern of dilemmas: Twitter spats and put-downs. Seventeenth-century thinkers understood there were competing conceptions of civility. They thought that outlawing heated political disagreement could lead to silencing dissent.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 Min.
    Morality, money and power

    Morality, money and power

    Morality has been outsourced to the markets and the state, argues the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. He tells Andrew Marr that society has become deeply divided, and that today’s challenges will never be met until we remember the importance of personal morality and responsibility. But this does not mean self-care, self-love and selfies - instead Sacks says we should focus on communities and caring for others.

    For a decade Mervyn King was the most influential banker in Britain as Head of the Bank of England. In 2008 he oversaw the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. In his new book, King looks back at his career, exploring the difference between risk and uncertainty. He suggests ways to make decisions for an unknowable future.

    If you wanted a decision from David Cameron during his time as Prime Minister you would have had to go through ‘the gatekeeper’, Kate Fall. In her memoir of her time at the centre of political power, Fall recalls the highs and lows of working at No. 10, and explains what happens when power and politics starts to fall apart.

    Producer: Hannah Sander

    • 42 Min.
    Hilary Mantel

    Hilary Mantel

    Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker prize. In a special edition of Start the Week with Andrew Marr, she discusses the final book in her Cromwell trilogy. The Mirror and The Light shows 16th-century England beset by rebellion at home, traitors abroad and Henry VIII still desperate for a male heir. In the centre sits Thomas Cromwell, a man who came from nowhere and has climbed to the very heights of power. His vision is an England of the future, but it is the past and the present mood of the King that will prove his downfall.

    Reader: Ben Miles
    Photograph: Jeff Overs
    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 Min.
    Leila Slimani on Sexual Politics

    Leila Slimani on Sexual Politics

    Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. From stories of poverty, exploitation and sexual addiction she now turns her attention to sexual politics within a deeply conservative culture. She tells Amol Rajan why she wanted to give voice to young Moroccan women suffocating under the strictures of a society which allowed them only two roles: virgin or wife.

    The writer Olivia Fane questions whether liberal society is really that liberating. In ‘Why Sex Doesn’t Matter’ she argues that women have been sold the idea of sexual freedom, but that this has curtailed the way people think about love and desire.

    The journalist Sally Howard asks why, after forty years of feminism, women still do the majority of the housework. While straight British women are found to put in 12 more days of household chores than their male partners, in the US young men are now twice as likely as their fathers to think a woman’s place is in the home.

    But it’s not just women who are constrained by the roles society presents to them. As a new photographic exhibition into Masculinity opens at the Barbican, the academic Chris Haywood, believes it’s important to highlight the importance of visual representations of men. He asks whether men have become stuck between ideas of ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 41 Min.

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