21 episodes

A podcast about the history, theory, and practice of democratic socialism -- for a world in need of serious change.

A Shareable World A shareable world, with big mike

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 14 Ratings

A podcast about the history, theory, and practice of democratic socialism -- for a world in need of serious change.

    20. The purpose of doing history: to create knowledge of the past or to inform where we are headed in the future?

    20. The purpose of doing history: to create knowledge of the past or to inform where we are headed in the future?

    “We have to be 'objective,' but objectivity can only be about what exists; you cannot be objective about what doesn't yet exist.” —big mike



    Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript



    In this episode:



    00:00 What is a revolution in the flow of history? What does history have to do with what is possible, or rather, what is thought to be possible?



    11:09 How do ‘bourgeois’ historians do history in a way that makes present concepts seem eternal or ahistorical (e.g. the ‘market’)? If bourgeois historians are attempting to merely ‘describe’ the past, what are the descriptive laws a socialist historian uses to tell history? What is history really about for a socialist?



    22:03 How can history itself be a practice? What is the purpose of the practice of history? If history is a practice with certain goals, can it still be objective? Is bourgeois history objective?



    31:00 What are the hidden premises and aims of bourgeois history? What does it have to do with assumptions about counterfactual situations (i.e., “if x didn’t happen, then y…”)and how does this limit or expand our sense of what’s possible?



    40:58 How are we meant to deal with history in educational institutions? How should history be taught to young people so they can go on to solve problems?



    Further Readings:



    G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit



    Phillip Pettit, On the People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy

    • 48 min
    19. What are revolutions, and when are they necessary?

    19. What are revolutions, and when are they necessary?

    “…we like to think it's the opposite and we claim it’s the opposite, but I think a good case can be made for the fact that social, the social media have become more and more an alienating rather than a collectivizing element in our society. And we'll pay for that alienation.”
    —big mike

     

    Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript

     

    In this episode:

     

    00:00 What are revolutions? What historical examples do we have to draw on—like the Spartacus rebellion—and what do they have to teach us? How have the ideas of liberal democracy, which saturate the present and our vision of the past, obscured or warped our ideas of revolution, or made revolution seem historically unnecessary?

     

    13:16 How do we view revolution today? Why do we fear it? How is it depicted as violent, and why should we consider it in relation to the normalized institutional violence of the conditions that lead to revolution?

     

    19:45 In America particularly, why haven’t we seen more revolutions? What is specific to our political conditions—as compared to others across history—that inhibit revolutionary action? How has the idea of revolution been domesticated, particularly in our distorted view of American history?

     

    32:05 What is the process of revolution, and how can its processes lead to brief utopias, as in the case of the Paris Commune? How do revolutions model themselves after one another?

     

    42:03 What are the limits and possibilities of contemporary movements, like Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street? How have class politics been evacuated, and what does this have to do with a Cold War intellectual project? What is the influence of anarchism on contemporary movements? What is the impact of new technologies—most especially, social media?

     

    Further Reading:

     

    Luciano Pellicani, Revolutionary Apocalypse

     

    [on violence and revolution] Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence

    • 56 min
    18. Theories of private property in the age of capitalism: Hobbes and Locke

    18. Theories of private property in the age of capitalism: Hobbes and Locke

    “…all of this is important because it's about how I, or you or anyone else has to live one's daily life. In other words, all these theories are just that there are things that intellectuals play with. But the problem is how do I live my daily life? How do I justify what I do when I get up in the morning? How do I treat my children, and my grandchildren? And so forth. That's where it has to be considered.”—big mike



    Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript



    In this episode:



    00:00 How do utopian forms of thinking change, looking into the 16th and 17th centuries, towards justifying current power structures as opposed to opposing them? What does this have to do with competing strands of emerging socialism and capitalism? How does private property emerge as an idea and practice? How does it relate to theories of the social contract?



    13:29 How are different justifications for (or attacks on) private property derived from different concepts of the ‘state of nature,’ or fables about prehistory? How does Locke’s theory about property anticipate the labor theory of value in Marx?



    28:10 What are labor theories of value? How did they allow people to articulate utopian forms of society, based around valuing the worker? What ideas do people have around the management of wealth and the planning of society?



    37:44 What are the assumptions about human beings built in to stories about private property and the social contract? How does this have to do with earlier discussed stories around the Bible etc.? What does socialism assume about human nature?



    43:13 How do questions around human nature enable us to think about what education should look like in a new society?



    Further Reading



    Johann Valentin Andreae, Christianopolis



    Tommaso Campanella, The City of the Sun



    Peter Chamberlen, The Poore Man's Advocate



    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan



    John Locke, Second Treatise on Government

    • 47 min
    17. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 5: Thomas More's "Utopia"

    17. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 5: Thomas More's "Utopia"

    "If you believe that change is necessary, you may believe the change is necessary but not necessarily know what direction that change will go. But change is inevitable. We change all the time. Nature is changing and we have, you know, change is part of the response mechanisms is over with and so on. We need perhaps to think about educating our children for change rather than for stability."—big mike



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    In this episode:



    00:00 Dispel any questions of anachronism, or linear progress—socialist ideas are ancient, and have presented themselves at other historical thresholds. How do historical changes change the way people think? What examples do we have to draw on to consider the interaction between a change in material conditions, and a change in thought?



    05:24 What are the changes of his time that compelled Thomas More to write Utopia? What is the system of thought that More is coming out of? What material conditions are compelling More to write this critique?



    11:28 How does the theme of private property show up in Utopia, and shift the way we think about democracy currently? What are the political and power implications of private property? How does this allow him to anticipate many problems of the coming capitalism?



    22:03 What does education have to do with More’s vision? How and what was taught? How does this compare to the ways we educate today?



    27:16 In a utopian society, what is the role of discontent? What is the role of discontent in our society today? How does capitalist culture want to redirect our discontent, resentment, or unhappiness?



    29:56 How does the way capitalism treats discontent teach us to think about—or rather, antagonize—change? How do we deal (or not deal) with change in capitalist society? How do we educate to deal with change? How would a democratic socialist society organize change?



    33:11 Shifting gears: what are the merits of localized change versus large-scale change? How has the barrier between local and global come apart in recent times, demanding large scale change? What does that have to do with the larger scale of political life, in the time of nation-states?



    36:53 What does Bacon’s New Atlantis have to teach us about another kind of property, foundational to life in this country—intellectual property? How does knowledge production relate to capitalist exploitation? How do we in our sites of conventional knowledge production—schools and universities—reflect capitalist values?



    Further Readings:



    Thomas More, Utopia



    Francis Bacon, New Atlantis



    [on questions of change and education] adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy & Eli Meyerhoff, Beyond Education: Radical Studying for Another World

    • 48 min
    16. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 4: the Western philosophical tradition (Plato)

    16. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 4: the Western philosophical tradition (Plato)

    “We talk about curriculum these days and about education these days as if it existed somehow apart from the social, the society in which we live. And I'm arguing that when we talk about education today, we're talking about education for capitalism. And we need to start talking about education for democratic socialism.”—big mike



    Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript



    In this episode:



    00:00 Greg and Mike reflect: what is the point of this podcast?



    03:32 If we primarily read Plato’s Republic today as a moral document, what are the other ways in which we can read it? What does the Republic suggest about the relationship between individual morality and social institutions—which needs to be changed first to transform the other? What do we need to understand about Plato’s historical and social context?



    10:56 What can we learn from Plato’s ideas about his ideal society? How do they reflect or challenge our own ideals about society?



    14:39 What about education? Why was education so important for Plato’s ideal society? How is that related to the structure of his society—more provocatively, how is education related to the structure of society in general? How does the social structure of the Republic give citizens a definition of what it is to be human?



    20:52 How is Plato’s outlining of a social system we now call eugenics still relevant, if uncomfortably, today? How does this relate to his (and our) idea of equality?



    24:26 What is Plato telling us about the nature of the self, and how does that relate to questions of society? In what ways are questions of the self also social questions?



    26:38 Extrapolating from Plato to our own world, what education would be demanded by a democratic socialist world?



    30:06 What does Plato have to tell us about how to change society—through the institutions that already exist, or by tearing down those institutions? How does this relate to his definition of what it means to be human?



    36:45 Shifting gears, what does an old Roman division between the law of nature and the law of man have to tell us about our current environmental crisis and, therefore, the crisis of capitalism? How do Marxists fall prey to this division?



    43:25 Shifting gears again, why is our impending crisis so unbelievable, in the literal sense of that word—why do people refuse to believe it? What does this have to do with historical time(s)? What does it have to do with the myths we believe in, we live by? And, circling back one last time to the question of education, discarding the premise that it’s ever objective—how do we transmit new, different myths? How are the myths we transmit in education related to the structure of society at large?



    Further Reading:



    Plato, Republic



    [on Greek philosophy and its intrinsic relationship to social theory] Josiah Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule & Kojin Karatani, Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy



    [on education and eugenics] Ansgar Allen, Benign Violence: Education in and Beyond the Age of Reason

    • 50 min
    15. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 3: socialist values and culture in the Bible

    15. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 3: socialist values and culture in the Bible

    “The idea of class conflict doesn't start with Karl Marx. It starts in the Old Testament and some of the earliest writings in the Old Testament.”—big mike



    Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript



    In this episode:



    00:00 Why is it important for the left to explore and rediscover utopian ideas within culture—particularly, religion? Why do we have to think about capitalism as not just an economic system, but as a culture, which is different from, say, a democratic socialist culture?



    05:24 We often read religious texts in moral terms today—what if we took, say, the Bible on its face and considered the moral protest as also a protest on a social, economic, and political level? How does the Bible express issues around class that are still relevant to us today? What aspects of utopian thought exist in the Bible?



    15:55 How does the Bible express a political tension that remains on the left today, between a kind of anarchism (governance by law and culture, with no central authority) and a more centralized power structure?



    23:39 How have historical religious figures, like St. Augustine and Savonarola, seen religious institutions (like churches) as sites of utopia in the material world, and tried to fashion them as such? What can we learn from these historical attempts about what actually causes and provokes change? Is it the idea of God, or power? Is it threat?



    34:45 How do we balance acculturation—changing individuals—with the changing of social systems—overthrowing governments, for example? How do we deal with the fact that one of these processes seems to occur much slower than the other? How do we balance different kinds of time in the attempt to make historical change?



    41:08 Do we need the idea of God, or a divine authority, to make change? What about different ways of relating to divinity—seeing it as created by human beings, or, seeing human beings as potential expressions of the divine? What if the divine isn’t something out there, outside of human beings?



    Further Reading:



    Book of Amos, Book of Isaiah



    Augustine, Confessions



    [on the relationship between religion and class struggle] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation



    [on the contrast between historical times] Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time

    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

daybreakdh ,

Refreshing podcast - thoughtful about our future

I love that this places our current problems in the larger historical perspective. Suggests that a lot of proposals we hear are bandaids and that deeper long-term thinking is required.

wannabestudentofhistory ,

The essential building blocks

Who wouldn’t want a conversational and comprehensive guided tour of the history of western thought?

inspiredbymike ,

Wonderful.

As someone who has had the chance to study with big Mike in person, I am so glad that this podcast exists so that people far away and from all walks of life can also have the opportunity to be exposed to his ideas. A wonderful and very necessary project at this confusing political moment.

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