369 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

    • News

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

    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
    Climate Ambition vs Energy Reality

    Climate Ambition vs Energy Reality

    David and Helen talk to Jason Bordoff, Dean of the Columbia Climate School and former Special Assistant to Barack Obama, about climate, COP26 and the enormous challenges of the energy transition. How can we balance the need for energy security with the need to wean the world off its dependency on fossil fuels? Why is China still so reliant on coal? Who will pay for the energy needs of the developing world? Plus, just how scared are the oil companies of public opinion? You can read more of Jason’s work here.
    Talking Points:
    Energy transition will require a lot of capital investment.
    Clean energy tends to be more capital intensive in the short term; although the long-term operating costs are lower.Private capital needs to be mobilized to make this happen. Can large financial institutions forgo significant returns if oil prices go back up?  
    There is a clash between climate ambition and energy reality.
    The reality is that, despite tremendous advances in clean energy, oil and gas usage are still going up. The more the ambition is elevated, the bigger this gap becomes. 
    During a lockdown that shut down half of the global economy, carbon emissions only fell 6%. 
    To reach the 1.5 degree target, emissions need to decrease much more quickly.We might start seeing more disruptive and ambitious policies on the table in coming years. Or, maybe not. When questions of energy affordability, reliability, and security come into tension with climate ambition, there is a risk that climate ambition will lose. Is increasing efficiency enough, or will energy consumption also need to go down?
    In many parts of the world, energy use will actually need to increase in the coming decades. 
    What is needed to make significant investments in clean energy in the developing world financially viable?
    Some people, like John Kerry, hoped that the U.S. and China might find a point of consensus on climate.
    In practice, that has not really happened.Could economic competition be a more effective driver than cooperation?
    If we always see high oil prices as a political problem that we can’t afford, then how will we get to the point at which we allow high prices to reduce demand?
    The United States is the world’s largest oil producer, but the U.S. government has much less control over American oil and gas producers than OPEC states do.Should we be talking more about energy and less about climate? 
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    The Columbia Climate SchoolJason’s recent article in Foreign Policy on energy in the developing worldJason, on why everything you think about the geopolitics of climate change is wrongJason’s podcast, Columbia Energy Exchange
    Further Learning: 
    How much will it cost the UK to reach net zero? See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    • 51 min

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