346 episodios

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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    • 5.0 • 2 valoraciones

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

    Adam Curtis

    Adam Curtis

    This week David talks to the celebrated film-maker Adam Curtis about his new series Can't Get You Out of My Head, which tells the history of the rise and fall of individualism. Why do so many people feel so powerless in the age of the empowered individual? How has digital technology turbo-charged our feelings of alienation? And what has all this got to do with behavioural psychology? Plus much more: Nixon, China, Dominic Cummings, complex systems, Max Weber and conspiracy theories. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p093wp6h/cant-get-you-out-of-my-head


    Talking Points:


    In his newest series, Adam identifies the 1970s as the wellspring of a global system that feels irrational and beyond political control. 
    - The Nixon shock—when the dollar became detached from the gold standard—was something that Nixon, at the time, saw as temporary.
    - But as the Watergate scandal carried on, banks realized they could start trading currencies against each other. Out of this came the global financial system.
    - The opening to China was seen as a great stroke of statesmanship.
    - But what was happening at that time in China was the collapse of the certainty of Mao’s revolution. What emerged was a system run by Deng Xiaoping who essentially substituted money for ideology.
    - Deng turned China into a giant production house of cheap goods. 
    - The generation that came out of WWII was terrified of big ideologies. What replaced ideology? Money.


    In an age of mass democracy, where individualism reigns, states become extremely difficult to govern.
    - By the late 70s/early 80s, politicians started to realize that you couldn’t assemble stable groups behind you. Instead of representing the people, they tried to become managers. 
    - Adam thinks that to call this neoliberalism is to oversimplify things.
    - Under Thatcher and Reagan, industrial policy essentially failed. The politicians gave up before we realized they had given up.


    On the surface, behaviouralism seemed like a challenge to the notion of the rational, self-interested individual.
    - But actually, behaviouralists concluded that if people are irrational, we need to find ways to nudge them to behave in rational ways so that the system will work better. 


    The Internet, as it is currently constructed, is like a modern ghost story. It’s always looking at patterns in the past.
    - The Internet as a feedback system can’t imagine something that hasn’t already happened. 
    - It’s a form of management that renders the world static and repeatable. 


    Fake stability has led to a kind of blindness: think about the collapse of the Soviet Union, or the financial crisis, or Trump.
    - Again and again the people in charge fail to anticipate what’s coming.
    - Has the ability of Big Data to predict been oversold? 


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Adam’s newest series, Can’t Get You Out of my Head
    - Max Weber’s ‘iron cage’
    - DId eBay just prove that paid search ads don’t work? 


    Further Learning: 
    - The Talking Politics Guide to... 1970s (with Helen)
    - Friedrich Hayek on Markets (for our History of Ideas series)
    - Crashed, with Adam Tooze
    - Adam’s, The Century of the Self


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
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    • 46 min
    How's Biden Doing

    How's Biden Doing

    70 days into the first 100 days we take the temperature of the Biden presidency and ask how he's doing, and how he's doing so much. What made sleepy Joe such an active president? Is it him or the people around him? And how should the Republicans respond? Plus we discuss what it would take to restore America's standing in the world - does anyone want that anyway? With Helen Thompson and Gary Gerstle.


    Talking Points: 


    The message of Biden’s early presidency is that he understands the challenge of the moment.
    - His first 70 days are more like FDR’s first 100 days than any recent president.
    - This has also led to a more critical reassessment of the Obama years.
    - Biden has put Harris in charge of the situation at the border; this is a strange move if he’s setting her up to be his successor.


    Biden essentially has a two year window to get things done—maybe less.
    - Biden is betting on his legislative achievements to get him through the midterms; he’s unveiling ambitious projects that will affect all Americans.
    - The pandemic has enabled some of this, but the stimulus and the infrastructure bill also reflect the monetary and fiscal environment.


    The reigning paradigm of U.S. politics since Reagan has been deregulation. There’s now a sense that this paradigm has exhausted itself.
    - Perhaps the paradigm really shifted in 2016. Many of the things that Biden has done—for example, infrastructure—are things that Trump said he wanted to do. 
    - Biden is trying to occupy ground that Trump was unable to occupy. Most Americans will benefit from the stimulus, and the infrastructure bill will create millions of new jobs.
    - Republicans are trying to focus on cultural issues. They are also gutting democratic institutions.


    What will happen when the pandemic ends? Will this create opportunities for a skillfully led opposition?
    - Joe Biden is not backed by clear legislative majorities. 
    - The border issue might become more politically salient when the pandemic ends.


    Is Pax Americana over?
    - There’s an increasing view both within and outside the United States that American leadership can’t be counted on.
    - There were foreign policy continuities between Obama and Trump. Key differences were on Iran and climate.
    - Biden has returned to the Paris Climate Accord and is trying to work with China on climate. 


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Biden’s recent press conference 
    - Samuel Huntington, The Crisis of Democracy


    Further Learning: 
    - More on Biden’s secret meeting with American historians
    - More on Biden’s infrastructure plan
    - Evan Osnos talks about Joe Biden with Ezra Klein


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
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    • 38 min
    Technopopulism

    Technopopulism

    David and Helen talk to Chris Bickerton about how technocracy and populism have come together to create a new form of democratic politics. From New Labour to Macron's En Marche, from Dominic Cummings to Five Star, we discuss what these different forms of politics have in common and whether the pandemic has entrenched the hold of technopopulism or whether we are on the brink of something new. 
    Technopopulism: The New Logic of Democratic Politics
     
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    • 43 min
    The Tragic Choices of Climate Change

    The Tragic Choices of Climate Change

    David talks to Helen Thompson and Adam Tooze about the choices facing the world in addressing climate change. Can we transition away from fossil fuels while maintaining our current ways of living? Will we act in time if we also insist on taking our time? Can the West uphold its values while getting its hands dirty with China? Plus we discuss whether American democracy is the worst system of all for doing what needs to be done.


    Talking Points: 


    The transition away from fossil fuels to non-carbon energy sources is, for now, constrained by the laws of physics around energy use.
    - Converting one source of energy to another wastes a lot of energy.
    - Do we make a bet on transcending the laws of physics via technological innovation when we have to deal with the timescales imposed by climate change? 


    Or is this way of framing things too negative? 
    - The story of modernity is about making technological bets against existing ways of life.
    - Is a bet with a ticking clock different? 


    How do we actually get to carbon neutrality by 2050?
    - Republicans in the US who take climate change seriously are betting on breakthroughs in carbon capture that will allow people to continue burning fossil fuels.
    - The target itself is artificial. We are picking out of probabilistic outcomes of more or less dire futures. 


    There are different timescales at play here.
    - There’s the inexorable progression of the problem itself; there’s political time, which is choppier but has rhythms to it; and there’s innovation time, which is not smooth at all. 


    There is no collective climate solution that doesn’t involve China. 
    - China is moving on the climate issue regardless of the West.
    - China can do so in part because its market is so big, but also because its market is so new.
    - The drama of the political economy of climate change right now is largely Asian. 
    - The Biden administration does not have a coherent climate change policy. The American debate seems frozen in the 1990s. 
    - In the background of the American debate about climate is geopolitics.


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Helen’s article on the geopolitical fight to come over green energy
    - The Guardian on Princeton’s decarbonization by 2050 model


    Further Learning:
    - More on the inversion of the Gulf Stream
    - Adam Tooze talks to Gideon Rachman about the climate crisis
    - Adam on the pandemic and the world economy


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
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    • 44 min
    Sunakonomics

    Sunakonomics

    This week we discuss the government's post-Budget economic strategy and the new dividing lines in British politics. Have the Tories stolen Labour's clothes? Is there a new consensus emerging on tax and pend? What can Keir Starmer do to carve out a distinctive economic position? Plus we consider whether a new Labour leader in Scotland can kickstart a revival of the party's fortunes there. With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke.


    Talking Points: 


    Rishi Sunak’s plan in the short-term is to concentrate on economic recovery and to end pandemic support in a reasonably—but not entirely—gradualist fashion.
    - In the medium-term, he’s saying there has to be an emphasis on paying for the pandemic and bringing the level of debt as proportion of GDP back down.
    - Sunak wants the Conservatives to go into the next election as the party that claims to be serious about the economy, ie, cautious about debt.
    - Both of the parties seem to be hoping that the past will come back—but it probably won’t.


    Starmer put a heavy bet on the competence case against Johnson. 
    - That worked well for much of 2020. The bet was that Brexit would make things chaotic. 
    - But the pandemic has gone on longer than people expected, and the vaccine rollout is going well. The furlough scheme has also been continued. 


    In two-party politics, the two parties often tend to converge. Is this happening in the UK?
    - Both parties have an interest in constructing the convergence as an illusion; but is it?
    - Brexit has produced some convergence because Labour isn’t trying to rejoin Europe.
    - Financial and monetary market conditions make it possible to sustain huge levels of debt. 
    - Most of the Western world have responded to China’s industrial strategy by calling for an industrial strategy.
    - The Tories are now putting a big emphasis on green energy; this also brings them closer to Labour.


    The politics for each party are different.
    - Labour needs to persuade people it has a plausible growth strategy because that is what they need to flourish. 
    - The big risk for the conservatives is unemployment.
    - Labour needs to expand its electoral coalition; this won’t be easy, but the return of mass unemployment might provide one way of doing this.


    Further Learning: 
    - More on Rishi Sunak’s budget
    - Johnson’s green energy plans
    - Why public debt is not like credit card debt
    - On Starmer’s response to the budget
    - Who is Anas Sarwar?


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
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    • 42 min
    Northern Ireland: Past, Present, Future

    Northern Ireland: Past, Present, Future

     In the latest in our series on the fate of the Union, we talk to historians Richard Bourke and Niamh Gallagher about the history of Northern Ireland's relationship to the rest of the UK. From the Anglo-Irish Union to partition to the Troubles to the Peace Process to Brexit and beyond, we discuss what makes Northern Irish politics so contentious and whether consensus is possible. Plus we ask if Irish re-unification is coming and what it might look like.


    Talking Points: 


    The Anglo-Irish union was a response to the 1798 rebellion. It was a means of pacification through incorporation.
    - The union in Ireland came before Catholic Emancipation, which took place in 1829. By then, a political movement based on disaffection had already commenced.
    - In material terms, the union added 5 million new subjects (England at that time had a population of roughly 8 million). It also added a new dimension of grievances.


    The home rule movement was seeking a devolved administration, but failure to deliver that made the Irish Catholic movement more committed to independence.
    - Meanwhile, Northern opinion became more alarmed about being subject to Southern jurisdiction.
    - The Government of Ireland Act in 1920 formalized partition.
    - Many politicians at the time hoped to see reunification within the context of the British Empire, but that did not come about.


    In Northern Ireland, proportional representation was abolished in local elections in 1923, and in general elections in 1929. In practice, Northern Ireland became a single party state with a large, disempowered minority.
    - Political activism in the 1960s was also influenced by the civil rights movement in the US and the increase in the Catholic student body in universities. 


    At some point during the 20th century, the dynamics of Northern Ireland became seen as a problem that didn’t apply to the rest of Britain.
    - The 1998 solution was creative: the talks were taken out of the UK context and put into a wider context with the United States and the EU.
    - The Good Friday left the categories of nationalists vs. unionists intact. 


    Today, Unionism in the North has become a new phenomenon focused on its own domestic welfare and constituency. 
    - The worst nightmare of Unionism is coming true: when the Troubles started, 33% of the population was Catholic. This summer, there will probably no longer be a culturally Protestant majority.
    - Brexit has revived talk of unification. But reunification could take many different forms.


    Mentioned in this Episode:
    - Niamh’s book, Ireland and the Great War: A Social and Political History
    - Richard’s book, Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas
    - The Good Friday Agreement


    Further Learning: 
    - David McKittrick and David McVea, Making Sense of the Troubles
    - Alvin Jackson, The Two Unions
    - Marking the centenary of Northern Ireland


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
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    • 48 min

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