26 episodes

A new series of talks by David Runciman, in which he explores some of the most important thinkers and prominent ideas lying behind modern politics – from Hobbes to Gandhi, from democracy to patriarchy, from revolution to lock down. Plus, he talks about the crises – revolutions, wars, depressions, pandemics – that generated these new ways of political thinking. From the team that brought you Talking Politics: a history of ideas to help make sense of what’s happening today.

Talking Politics: HISTORY OF IDEAS Talking Politics

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A new series of talks by David Runciman, in which he explores some of the most important thinkers and prominent ideas lying behind modern politics – from Hobbes to Gandhi, from democracy to patriarchy, from revolution to lock down. Plus, he talks about the crises – revolutions, wars, depressions, pandemics – that generated these new ways of political thinking. From the team that brought you Talking Politics: a history of ideas to help make sense of what’s happening today.

    Shklar on Hypocrisy

    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.


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    Going 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
     
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    • 46 min
    Nozick on Utopia

    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.


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    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)
     
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    • 45 min
    Rawls on Justice

    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.


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    - Michael 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 
     
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    • 47 min
    De Beauvoir on the Other

    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.


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    Going 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 
     
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    • 47 min
    Schumpeter on Democracy

    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?


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    Going 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
     
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    • 47 min
    Schmitt on Friend vs Enemy

    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.


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    Going 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 
     
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    • 45 min

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