370 episodes

Coronavirus! Climate! Brexit! Trump! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting: Talking Politics is the podcast that tries to make sense of it all. Every week David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the most interesting people around about the ideas and events that shape our world: from history to economics, from philosophy to fiction. What does the future hold?
Can democracy survive? How crazy will it get? This is the political conversation that matters.
Talking Politics is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, Europe's leading magazine of books and ideas.

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TALKING POLITICS Talking Politics

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    • 4.7 • 1.8K Ratings

Coronavirus! Climate! Brexit! Trump! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting: Talking Politics is the podcast that tries to make sense of it all. Every week David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the most interesting people around about the ideas and events that shape our world: from history to economics, from philosophy to fiction. What does the future hold?
Can democracy survive? How crazy will it get? This is the political conversation that matters.
Talking Politics is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, Europe's leading magazine of books and ideas.

See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics

    American Civil War?

    American Civil War?

    One year on from Joe Biden’s inauguration David and Helen talk with Gary Gerstle about what’s gone wrong. What is the strategy behind this presidency? Has it tried to do too much or too little? And are the dark warnings of another American civil war really plausible? Plus we discuss whether the original American Civil War should really be used as the template for political breakdown.
    Talking Points: 
    It’s hard to be a transformational president when your congressional margin is as slim as Biden’s is.
    Are critics being too harsh? Unemployment is down, the pandemic recovery was quicker than anticipated, and there is a broader renegotiation of work conditions for lower-paid workers. But these are not the seismic shifts many hoped for. Biden may want to be a transformational president, but the conditions do not suit transformational politics.Did an overreading of Trump’s incompetence on the pandemic inflate expectations of Biden? 
    What would Biden’s presidency look like if Democrats did not have a majority in the Senate?
    The unexpected victories in Georgia have also led to heightened scrutiny of the holdout Democrats, Sinema and Manchin. Republican senators seem to be getting a free pass. 
    Are fears about a looming American civil war overblown?
    What do we mean by civil war? The idea of the federal government fighting a group of secessionist states seems inconceivable. The notion of factions vying for control over the center is somewhat more plausible.The American Civil War was not just about tribalism or ideology. There were incompatible political economic systems. The very fact that the United States has had a Civil War, however, is still part of American politics. As T.S. Eliot said, ‘Serious civil wars never come to an end.’Will the burgeoning discourse around illegitimate election results actually translate into more overt political violence in the future?
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Biden’s recent speech on voting rightsBarbara Walter’s book, How Civil Wars StartGary’s forthcoming book, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order
    Further Learning:
    Is Civil War coming to America? More on Merrick Garland’s investigation Eric Foner for the LRB on the electoral college
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking


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    • 53 min
    Two Topics for 2022

    Two Topics for 2022

    To kick off the new year David and Helen are joined by historian Robert Saunders to talk about two possible trends for the next twelve months. Could Labour and the Lib Dem’s really find electoral common ground to defeat the Tories? And is Netzero scepticism about to become a serious force on the British right? A conversation about history, coalitions, energy prices, populism and the return of Nigel Farage. Coming up on Talking Politics: Biden one year on.
    Talking Points:
    By-elections and opinion polls suggest that the Conservative Party might be in trouble.
    Labour did badly in the by-elections but it is doing better in the polls. Is there a way of getting the Tories out without some combination of Lib Dem and Labour opposition? The Lib Dems can win in seats where Labour is not competitive.There are no prospects for the Labour Party becoming the largest party, given the situation in Scotland, without the Lib Dems taking seats from the Conservatives.The Lib Dems struggle when Labour is perceived as being too far to the left. 
    What complicates things now is the Scottish question. 
    The prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition presents a different type of problem.Should the parties stand down candidates? Can you compel tactical voting? Should you?  
    Is there potential for serious opposition to climate-centric politics in the coming years?
    There is a growing, although still constrained, opposition to net zero politics on the right. Farage wants to stoke this.  It’s not exactly climate skepticism, but rather skepticism over the policies put forward to tackle it. This is already happening in Australia and the United States, but these are countries where fossil fuel producers have a lot of power. This is emerging now because of what is happening with energy prices. 
    Is there an unoccupied political space between techno-utopianism and net zero skepticism?  
    Johnson is keen on the green-growth strategy, but so far, the evidence on green jobs is not that convincing.Covid showed us that the public can take more realism than politicians often assume.
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Keir Starmer’s new year speechMichael Crick’s forthcoming biography of Nigel FarageRobert’s Twitter account
    Further Learning: 
    More on Conservative opposition to Net ZeroHelen on the timid political debate over green energyAdam Tooze on realism, progressivism, and Net Zero
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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    • 49 min
    Boris: The Ghost of Christmas Present

    Boris: The Ghost of Christmas Present

    David and Helen talk through what’s going on with the prime minister, the pandemic and the state of British politics. Is Johnson still in touch with public opinion on Covid? Why is hypocrisy more toxic than lying? What are the historical parallels - if any - for the Tories recent by-election disasters? Plus we try to decide what 2021 will be remembered for politically in the years to come.


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    • 49 min
    1848 and All That

    1848 and All That

    David and Helen talk to historian Chris Clark about the 1848 revolutions and what they teach us about political change. What explains the contagiousness of the revolutionary moment? Is it possible to combine parliamentary reform with street politics? Where does counter-revolution get its power?
    The revolutions of 1848 started with a small civil war in Switzerland in 1847.
    In 1848, there was a cascade of simultaneous uprisings across the continent. There were the spring revolutions; then in the summer, the liberal and conservative wings began to fight each other.In the autumn, counter revolutions began in earnest. But the left revived itself, launching revolution 2.0. Finally, in the summer of 1849, the counter revolution largely prevailed.
    These were revolutions about political and social order, but also about national order.
    The Hungarians, for example, declared independence from Vienna and fought not just against the Austrians but against a range of other nationalities.
    What accounts for the simultaneity of these revolutions?
    A continent-wide socio-economic crisis began with an agrarian crisis in 1845. Food became much more expensive at a time when people spent most of their money on food.The agrarian crisis then triggered a downturn in trade and consumption. 
    Why wasn’t there a revolution in Britain? 
    One reason is that the country was so efficiently policed.Another is that Britain was able to export potentially problematic people to the colonies. The imperial economy also allowed them to outsource price-shock problems.
    The forces of counterrevolution were primarily those of monarchism and money.
    Europe already had an order, the order of 1815; monarchs wanted to restore it.Revolutions are spontaneous, but counterrevolutionaries can bide their time strategically.The liberal great powers didn’t support the revolutions, but the conservative ones supported the counter revolutions.You can also read this as the death throes of the counterrevolutionary order. They won’t make common cause again. 
    The revolutions of 1848 combined radical street politics with legislative politics. The institutional side of the revolution seemed to win.
    Constitutions proliferated after 1848. The tense relationship between the street and representative processes is at the core of what these revolutions were about.  

    Chris’ lecture on the 1848 revolutions for the LRBAnd his LRB essayFrom our archives… Why Constitutions Matter with Linda ColleyIn Our Time on the Taiping RebellionOur History of Ideas series… Marx and Engels on RevolutionAnd Rosa Luxemburg on RevolutionThe TP guide to… European Union before the EU

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    • 52 min
    Supply Chains, Inflation & the Metaverse

    Supply Chains, Inflation & the Metaverse

    In a special episode recorded live at the Bristol Festival of Economics, David and Helen talk to Ed Conway, Economics Editor at Sky News, about the biggest challenges facing the global economy. How will the supply chain crisis be fixed? Is inflation the threat it appears? Can the world economic system really wean itself off coal? Plus we discuss whether Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse will ever escape the brute facts of economic material reality.
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    • 56 min
    Where is China Heading?

    Where is China Heading?

    Helen and David talk to Cindy Yu, host of the Chinese Whispers podcast, about the trajectory of Chinese politics. What is Beijing’s political strategy for Hong Kong and Taiwan? Is Xi Jinping really a socialist? Can the CCP escape its history? Plus, what’s the real reason Xi didn’t show up in Glasgow?
    Talking Points: 
    Before the pandemic, the central questions about China in the West revolved around Hong Kong. Now we don’t talk about it so much.
    Both the West and China itself seem to think that China has the situation under control.The pandemic made protest harder. It also meant that the media on the ground was focusing on something else.Beijing called the financial companies’ bluff: they didn’t leave when the political situation got worse. 
    China is trying to repair its territorial claims.
    In some ways, the situation in Hong Kong has made conflict with Taiwan more likely. One country, two systems no longer seems plausible. The window of reunification may be closing. Xi would probably not want to go in for a long, drawn-out war.
    This is a precarious situation: the risks of miscalculation are enormous. 
    What would the West need to do to preemptively deter China? It’s not clear that this would actually be good for China. 
    The CCP apparatus is incredibly opaque. 
    That said, it appears that the party is more unified now than it was before.Xi is delivering, and if he continues to do so, he will probably not face too much pushback within the party.There was a domestic reason for Xi to skip COP: it coincided with the Sixth Plenum.
    How ideological is Xi’s project? 
    China is moving away from pragmatism, not necessarily because of Xi Jinping thought.Ideology is most evident in economics.Xi is now talking about common prosperity after decades of rampant inequality.The policies associated with common prosperity probably would not fly in the West.Xi thinks that fixing economic problems is one way to head off social problems.
    Mentioned in this Episode:
    Cindy’s podcast, Chinese WhispersCindy’s podcast episode with Oriana Skylar MastroVictor Shih at UC San Diego
    Further Learning: 
    More on the Biden-Xi virtual summitThe Talking Politics Guide to… The Chinese Communist Party
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
1.8K Ratings

1.8K Ratings

IncognitoPenguin ,

One of my favourites

David and Helen always provide interesting and intelligent discussion on a wide range of topics. A must listen for those interested in politics

wewonthewar ,

Decent

They do sound rather bored, however. Monotony…

one who perseveres ,

Hilary Mantel

Desperate stuff, HM with her v pronounced hesitations, cod history, and cod historical parallels just intensely embarrassing - after a bit I had to stop listening . The third book is far too long, the literary mannerisms tiresome and altogether it’s all over the place - might she be with her ludicrous notions + weird delivery just getting to be a little bit batty ?

Might be OK for a wet afternoon with a literary festival crowd but not otherwise !

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