46 episodes

Good in Theory is a podcast about political philosophy and how it can help us understand the world today. Want to know what's in Plato's Republic or Hobbes's Leviathan but don't want to read them? This is your pod. I explain my favourite books in political theory in enough detail that you’ll feel like you read them yourself. Deep but not heavy. No experience needed.

Good in Theory: A Political Philosophy Podcast Clif Mark

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 41 Ratings

Good in Theory is a podcast about political philosophy and how it can help us understand the world today. Want to know what's in Plato's Republic or Hobbes's Leviathan but don't want to read them? This is your pod. I explain my favourite books in political theory in enough detail that you’ll feel like you read them yourself. Deep but not heavy. No experience needed.

    45 - Humane War feat. Samuel Moyn

    45 - Humane War feat. Samuel Moyn

    War tends to bring out the human propensity for atrocity. Nobody likes indiscriminate killing, torture and so on. What to do about it? One response is to avoid war altogether. According to Yale prof Samuel Moyn, that’s what most people wanted after World War II and after Vietnam. But more recently, he’s noticed a shift. Now, politicians, especially in America, are focussing on making more humane. Leaders like Obama say they’ll make war as ‘clean’ as possible by using drone strikes and special forces and minimizing civilian deaths and secret torture programs. That’s all well and good but Moyn sees a danger: making war more humane makes it easier to justify. If war is ‘clean’, why not wage it forever? 

    Samuel Moyn, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented WarMoyn’s podcast about legal theory Digging a Hole
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    • 1 hr 5 min
    44 - Samuel Huntington "The Clash of Civilizations?"

    44 - Samuel Huntington "The Clash of Civilizations?"

     Samuel J. Huntington’s 1993 “The Clash of Civilizations?” is the most assigned article in American political science. It predicts a worldwide culture war (but not the kind you're thinking of). The book became a massive bestseller, Huntington was all over TV and his theory is still talked about all the time. It made him a darling to the press but reviled by his fellow academics.   Think of "Clash"  as a dark rejoinder to Fukuyama’s already-pretty-morose “End of History.” Instead of a peaceful but boring post-history, Huntington thinks that the end of the Cold War heralds a new era of worldwide civilizational conflict not only because of the Muslims (but also because of the Muslims). 
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    • 36 min
    43 - Tyranny at Work feat. Elizabeth Anderson

    43 - Tyranny at Work feat. Elizabeth Anderson

    Americans hate when the state tells them what to do. They’ve got freer speech, freer access to guns and less regulation on business than any other rich country. 
    So why do they let their work bosses walk all over them? American workers have less rights and worse conditions than workers in any other developed country. Employers can fire employees at will, impose arbitrary schedules and prevent them from forming unions. They tell them what to wear, what they can publicly say and even when they can take a shit. Why do freedom-loving Americans stand for this? 
    Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher at Michigan State University, Ann Arbor. She thinks her country is in the grip of free-market ideology AKA “libertarianism” AKA “classical liberalism.” According to this viewpoint, any interference by the state in the private sector is a violation of freedom. But when the state won’t defend workers’ rights, they allow employers to subject their employees to a tyrannical form of “private government.” Freedom for the boss means servitude for the worker. 
    We talk about the history of this ideology, the consequences for American workers and how the tide may finally be starting to turn. 
     
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    • 54 min
    42 - The New Aristocracy feat. Matthew Stewart

    42 - The New Aristocracy feat. Matthew Stewart

    Matthew Stewart is a philosophy PhD and author. He’s also a Princeton guy and former management consultant so he knows rich people. 
    His new book, The 9.9%, is about them. Not the super-rich, but the doctors, lawyers and managers that go to good colleges and live in nice neighbourhoods. The “nearly rich and not-famous,” as he puts it. 
    We talk about how these people raise their kids, get their money and block the poorer element from their neighbourhoods. Matthew reckons the 9.9% are a new kind of aristocracy that’s entrenching inequality and making everyone hate parenting. In the end, it’s not really the white collar player he hates; it’s the game of inequality. Though he doesn’t sound very fond of the players either. 



     
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    • 54 min
    41 - Love in the Time of Big Data feat. Alfie Bown

    41 - Love in the Time of Big Data feat. Alfie Bown

    Big tech companies tell us they’re our servants, existing to fulfill our desires more cheaply and conveniently than ever. Alfie Bown doesn’t think so. He thinks Deliveroo, Tinder, Pornhub  etc. aren’t just giving us what we want, they’re shaping what we want. He reckons our tech overlords are secretly remaking humankind on the level of desire. 
     
    We chat about Chinese cars that know what you want to eat and why time travellers don’t get horny. 
     
    Bown is the author of a new book called Dream Lovers: The Gamification of Relationships
     


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    • 58 min
    40 - Is Liberal Democracy the Best We Can Do? feat. The Morality of Everyday Things

    40 - Is Liberal Democracy the Best We Can Do? feat. The Morality of Everyday Things

    Is democracy the worst form of government except for all the others or is it just the worst?

    This is a crossover with the  delightful Morality of Everyday Things podcast. Jake and Ant and I discuss what liberal democracy is, the arguments in its favour, and some big critiques. Episode includes Plato, Nazis and Lizards. Enjoy!

    Also, go listen to MOET pod!

    References
    Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man
    Carl Schmitt The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy
    Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies
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    • 1 hr 14 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
41 Ratings

41 Ratings

kmw000 ,

In lieu of $

As a professional philosopher, I’m equipped to appreciate the quality of Cliff’s work: intelligent and lovingly prepared. I’m especially impressed by the overview of Plato’s Republic, which does justice without getting (too) lost in the weeds.

Thank you!

bby_kangaroo ,

The joke that made me leave this review

I switched from Apple Music to Spotify recently and started listening to podcasts there as well. During the episode “Plato’s Republic 6” and the part with the discussion of the soul, I was absolutely tickled by what I believe must have been a reference to Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I can’t think of another context where I’ve heard “boy’s soul” and “boy’s hole” confused for comedic purposes. That was the push I needed to come all the way back from Spotify to the apple podcast app and leave a review. I think the name of this show is incredibly clever and as someone who is living unemployed in his high school bedroom with a 2019 vintage political science degree, I find the perspectives in this show incredibly refreshing after 4 frustrating years of my complaints in political theory classes about the incompatibility of these abstract ideas with lived political reality falling on deaf ears.

JEC_PLUR ,

Fantastic podcast

Fantastic podcast and a brilliant host.

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