365 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

    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
    Hilary Mantel

    Hilary Mantel

    In a special episode recorded in front of a live audience, Helen and David talk to Hilary Mantel about power, monarchy and political intrigue. From the Tudors to the present, from Henry VIII to Boris Johnson, from Thomas Cromwell to Dominic Cummings. A fascinating insight into politics and the writer’s imagination, from one of the greatest modern novelists.
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Mantel Pieces, a new collection of Hilary’s LRB essays‘Royal Bodies’ (from 2013)The Wolf Hall trilogyA Place of Greater Safety David and Helen on Hilary Mantel (from April 2020)
    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
    Free with Lea Ypi

    Free with Lea Ypi

    David talks with Lea Ypi about her astonishing new memoir Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, which tells the story of her childhood in Stalinist Albania and what came after. It’s a tale of family secrets, political oppression and the promise of liberation - and a profound meditation on what it really means to be free. From Marxism to liberalism and back again, this is a conversation that brings political ideas to life. Lea Ypi is Professor of Political Theory at the LSE and Free has been shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize
    Talking Points: 
    Albania was a socialist country that went through various alliances.
    By the time that Lea was born, it was largely isolated.The dominant narrative was that Albania was a country surrounded by empires, which stood on the moral high-ground.In other words, it was socialist and anti-imperialist but also fiercely nationalist. 
    For Albania, the key year was not 1989 but 1990.
    Initially, dissidents were described as ‘hooligans.’In December 1990, protesters requested political pluralism.
    How do we conceptualize freedom? 
    People in Western countries often relate to non-liberal societies by conceptualizing themselves as liberators.What does freedom mean in a limit-case like Albania? There is a risk of paternalism in the dominant liberal conceptions of freedom. There are always margins of dissidence.What does it feel like to suddenly gain freedom in the liberal sense? How does this affect relations between generations?
    For Lea, freedom is about being the author of your own fate, even when it seems overdetermined.
    Studying political ideas can make one a nihilist, or you can choose to believe that there is something about humans that is inherently moral.In other words, freedom is moral agency.
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Lea’s new book, FreeLea on political legitimacy in Marxist perspectiveBook tickets for our upcoming event with Hilary Mantel
    Further Learning: 
    Lea in the Guardian on growing up in Europe’s last communist stateMore on Albania after the fall of communism from the FTMore on Enver HoxhaMore on the Albanian-Soviet splitLea talks to David and Helen about states of emergencyTP History of Ideas on Fukuyama and the ‘End of History’


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    • 56 min
    German Lessons

    German Lessons

    David and Helen are joined by Politico’s chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig to explore the consequences of the German elections. Who were the real winners and losers? Are there lessons for centre-left parties in other countries, including the Labour Party in Britain? And what are the choices facing Germany as it decides on its place in an increasingly unstable world? Plus we ask whether this was a Covid election. If not, why not?
    Talking Points:
    What was surprising about the German elections?
    To expect something is different from seeing it actually happen.
    Do campaigns make a difference to election outcomes? 
    In this case, it looks like it did. It was pretty clear that Laschet was a poor candidate.Laschet’s response to the floods was a turning point.
    Scholz prevailed because of his experience—he isn’t perceived as a change candidate.
    The SPD base has moved to the left, but Scholz is more of a centrist. The CDU, on the other hand, was much less stable. 
    Most German voters wanted change, and yet it is the continuity Merkel candidate who is most likely to become the next chancellor.
    This reflects grand coalition politics. Merkel pushed the Christian Democrats into the space of the Social Democrats. But the initiative to form this government is coming from the change parties: the Greens and the FDP. 
    The parties seem to believe that their differences are bridgeable. 
    The two smaller parties are more popular among younger people. Change might be driven from below. The larger party only has about 26 percent; this gives the other parties more leverage.What kind of change would be embraced by both the FDP and the Greens? 
    Mentioned in this Episode:
    Peter Tiede on German schadenfreude in the TimesThe German election resultsWhat are the coalition options after Germany’s election? 
    Further Learning: 
    Matthew Karnitschnig on Olaf Scholz, the ‘teflon candidate’More on Merkel’s legacy for the FTMore on Germany policy towards ChinaBackground on the Scholz money-laundering scandalOur most recent episode on Germany
    Hear more of Matthew on Politico's podcast on European politics, EU Confidential, which he hosts.
    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
    Shutdown/Confronting Leviathan

    Shutdown/Confronting Leviathan

    We’re back from our summer break with David, Helen and Adam Tooze exploring what the pandemic has revealed about politics, economics and the new world order. From Covid crisis to China crisis to climate crisis: how does it all fit together? And what comes next? Adam’s new book is Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy. Plus David talks about his new book based on series one of History of Ideas: Confronting Leviathan. 
    Talking Points:
    The term ‘lockdown’ can be misleading. Many aspects of the response were not top-down.
    Most of the reduction in mobility predated government mandate.The financial markets made huge moves and central banks then had to step in.The popular response cannot be separated from the actions of the state.
    The term ‘shutdown’ better captures the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
    Huge parts of the productive economy literally ground to a halt. It seems like central banks learned something from the last crisis.Is there still a realistic prospect of normalization? Adam and Helen are skeptical. 
    Is there such thing as democratic money?
    If so, then democracy has changed.The condition of possibility for the freedom of action of central bankers is a political vacuum.Parts of the left see an opportunity in monetary politics. 
    The entire monetary order in China is political, but there was a debate within the regime over stimulus.
    The conservatives won out.Some Western financial leaders used this to push back against central bankers in their own countries. 
    The Republican party is becoming increasingly incoherent.
    Some, such as Mnuchin, emphasize the structural necessity of some kind of continuity. Others, such as Jay Powell, argue that the priority is confronting China. There is an ongoing de-centering from the West in a dollar-based world. 
    The U.S.-China competition has changed. 
    We have moved from a realm of competition over GDP growth rates to a much starker contest involving hard power.The tech sanctions are a sovereignty issue, not just an economic issue.
    Mentioned in this Episode:
    Adam’s new book, ShutdownJames Meadway on neoliberalismRudiger Dornbusch, Essays (1998/2001)Quinn Slobodian on right-wing globalistsPerry Anderson’s review of Adam’s work, and Adam’s responseMarx’s Capital Volume 1Helen’s book, Oil and the Western Economic CrisisDaniela Gabor on macrofinance  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    • 1 hr 4 min

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