Best David Runciman Podcasts (2024)
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Past Present Future is a bi-weekly History of Ideas podcast with David Runciman, host and creator of Talking Politics, exploring the history of ideas from politics to philosophy, culture to technology. David talks to historians, novelists, scientists and many others about where the most interesting ideas come from, what they mean, and why they matter. Ideas from the past, questions about the present, shaping the future. Brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books. New episo ...
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Discover your next favourite book, or take a deep dive into the mind of an author you love, with The Shakespeare and Company Interview podcast. Long-form interviews with internationally acclaimed authors, recorded from our bookshop in the heart of Paris. Hosted by S&Co Literary Director, Adam Biles. Discover all our upcoming events here. If you enjoy these conversations, you can order The Shakespeare and Company Book of Interviews here. Past guests include: Ottessa Moshfegh, Ian McEwan, Ali ...
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TALKING POLITICS

David Runciman and Catherine Carr

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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 ...
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A new series of talks by David Runciman, in which he explores some of the most important thinkers and prominent ideas lying behind modern politics – from Hobbes to Gandhi, from democracy to patriarchy, from revolution to lock down. Plus, he talks about the crises – revolutions, wars, depressions, pandemics – that generated these new ways of political thinking. From the team that brought you Talking Politics: a history of ideas to help make sense of what’s happening today. Hosted on Acast. Se ...
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A weekly interview series from Russell Brand that examines what's beneath the surface—of the people we admire, the ideas that define our time, and the history we’re told. Speaking with guests from the worlds of academia, popular culture, and the arts, Russell seeks to uncover the ulterior truth behind our constructed reality. And have a laugh.On his new podcast ‘Above the Noise’ Russell guides us all—curious beginners, spiritual skeptics, and experienced practitioners—in brief, 10-minute med ...
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show series
 
In this episode David discusses Ayn Rand’s insanely long and insanely influential Atlas Shrugged (1957), the bible of free-market entrepreneurialism and source book to this day for vicious anti-socialist polemics. Why is this novel so adored by Silicon Valley tech titans? How can something so bad have so much lasting power? And what did Rand have a…
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Bertolt Brecht’s classic anti-war play was written in 1939 at the start of one terrible European war but set in the time of another: the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century. How did Brecht think a three-hundred-year gap could help us to understand our own capacity for violence and cruelty? Why did he make Mother Courage such an unlovable characte…
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H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) isn’t just a book about time travel. It’s also full of late-19th century fear and paranoia about what evolution and progress might do to human beings in the long run. Why will the class struggle turn into savagery and human sacrifice? Who will end up on top? And how will the world ultimately end? Next time: Bert…
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Last week we were joined in the bookshop by Hari Kunzru, whose new novel Blue Ruin is a deeply unsettling, and intensely thought provoking reflection on the impact capital has on people, but also on art, and those who create it. It is the perfect final instalment—alongside White Tears and Red Pill—in Hari Kunzru’s own trois couleurs —a loose trilog…
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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is a story that it’s easy to know without really knowing it at all. This week’s episode explores all the ways that Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale confounds our expectations about good and evil. What does Dr Jekyll really want? What are all the men in the book trying to hide? And what has any of this got to do with Q-Anon…
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This week's great political novel is Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Redux (1874), his lightly and luridly fictionalised account of parliamentary polarisation in the age of Gladstone and Disraeli. A tale of political and personal melodrama, it explores what happens when political parties steal each other’s clothes and politicians find themselves hung ou…
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This second episode about George Eliot’s masterpiece explores questions of politics and religion, reputation and deception, truth and public opinion. What is the relationship between personal power and faith in a higher power? Is it ever possible to escape from the gossip of your friends once it turns against you? Who can rescue the ambitious when …
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Last week we were joined by the wonderful Sheila Heti to celebrate the launch of her Alphabetical Diaries. In taking a decade of her journals, sorting the sentences alphabetically, then paring them down to about a tenth of their original length, Sheila Heti has freed a slice of her life from the shackles of time and in doing so has extracted some o…
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Our series on the great political novels and plays resumes with George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1872), which has so much going on that it needs two episodes to unpack it. In this episode David discusses the significance of the book being set in 1829-32 and the reasons why Nietzsche was so wrong to characterise it as a moralistic tale. Plus he explains …
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For our last episode in this series David is joined by Helen Lewis to discuss Mesmerism – aka animal magnetism – an eighteenth-century method of hypnosis for which great medical benefits were claimed. Was its originator, Franz Mesmer, a charlatan or a healer? Was his movement science or religion or something in between? And what can it tell us abou…
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To celebrate Dylan Thomas Day 2024 we’re delighted to share this recording of our recent event with award-winning songwriter, author and broadcaster Cerys Matthews. The evening also featured live music from Flora Hibberd and her band, including a brand new song composed for this evening. Enjoy! More from Cerys Matthews: Out of Chaos Comes Bliss: ht…
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For our penultimate episode in this series David talks to Kathleen Stock about Roland Barthes’s idea of the Death of the Author (1967). Once very fashionable, the notion that readers not writers are the arbiters of what a text means has had a long and sometimes painful afterlife. As well as exploring its curious appeal and its persistent blindspots…
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In this episode of our series on the lingering hold of bad ideas David talks to the writer and broadcaster Helen Lewis about the arguments made at the turn of the last century against giving the vote to women. Why were so many women against female enfranchisement? What did attitudes to women in politics reveal about the failings of men? And where c…
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For the latest episode in our series about the hold of bad ideas, we welcome back the geneticist Adam Rutherford to talk about Linnaean taxonomy, a seemingly innocuous scheme of classification that has had deeply pernicious consequences. From scientific racism to social stratification to search engine optimisation, taxonomy gets everywhere. Can we …
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A few weeks ago, we welcomed Pulitzer Prizewinner Viet Thanh Nguyen to Shakespeare and Company to discuss his engrossing new work A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, a book about family, and memory, and storytelling, and history, on all the levels that it impacts upon a life. Buy A Man of Two Faces here: https://www.shakespeareandc…
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Today’s bad idea is one with a very long history: David talks to the historian Christopher Clark about antisemitism and the reasons for its endless recurrence. What has made discrimination against the Jews different from other kinds of violent prejudice over the course of European history? How did the ‘Jewish Question’ become the battleground of Ge…
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In today’s episode about seemingly good ideas gone badly wrong David talks to the philosopher and journalist Kathleen Stock about Facebook Friends, something that was meant to make us happier and better connected but really didn’t. How did online friendship become so performative? Does its failings say more about Facebook and its business models or…
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In the second episode in our series on bad ideas David talks to the political economist Helen Thompson about the gold standard, which was meant to anchor the world economy until it all fell apart a hundred years ago. Why does gold so often appear like a stable basis for money in an unstable world – and why not silver? What made the gold standard a …
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For the first episode in our new series about the hold of bad ideas David talks to the geneticist and science broadcaster Adam Rutherford about eugenics: from its origins in the 19th century through its heyday in the 20th century to its continuing legacy today. Is eugenics bad science, bad morality, bad politics – or all three? What are the fears t…
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A few weeks ago we welcomed Ottessa Moshfegh to Shakespeare and Company. That night we’re headed almost back to where it all began by revisiting Moshfegh’s second book Eileen, the small town noir that propelled this experimental writer into the bestseller charts and onto the Booker shortlist. Eileen has just been adapted into a Hollywood film—direc…
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In our final episode David and Lea discuss liberation movements, from post-colonial liberation to women’s liberation, gay liberation and animal liberation. What, if anything, do these movements have in common? Is liberation about equality or is it about difference? And who needs liberating next – children? You can hear our bonus episodes for this s…
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In the penultimate episode in this series David and Lea discuss two twentieth-century philosophies of freedom and the human psyche. What can existentialism teach us about the nature of free choice under conditions of despair? Is there any escape from bad faith? And what can individuals – or even entire societies – learn about their freedom from bei…
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In our series about different ideas of freedom David and Lea have reached anarchism and nihilism. What is the positive vision of human freedom behind the anarchist rejection of the established order? What can nineteenth-century anarchists teach us about freedom in the twenty-first century? And if nihilists are against everything, what are they for?…
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In the latest episode of our series about different ideas of freedom David and Lea explore what makes the free market free – and where it fails. How does buying and selling stuff advance human freedom? What does the free market free us from? And is it really possible to be free in a world dominated by credit and debt? Sign up now for PPF+ to get bo…
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James—the new novel by Percival Everett—retells, reframes, and reimagines Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim, the black man whose flight from slavery quickly entangles with the journey of Huck, on the run after faking his own death to escape his violent father. James gives us the events of Twain’s picaresque…
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In this episode in our series about ideas of freedom David and Lea explore Immanuel Kant’s vision of rational freedom and perpetual peace. Why was Kant so sure that human reason would produce enlightened progress? Was he right? What are the obstacles likely to derail the advance of peace, then and now? How well do his arguments about free speech an…
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History of Freedom w/ Lea Ypi: Machiavelli and Political Liberty For the third episode in our series about ideas of freedom David and Lea discuss Machiavelli, republicanism and what it means to live in a free state. What are the institutions that can protect people from domination and exploitation? How can political elites be held to account? Where…
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In episode two of our new series David and Lea explore some ancient ideas of freedom and ask what they mean today. What can Socrates teach us about the nature of free inquiry and the pitfalls of democratic freedom? Is Stoicism a guide to emancipation from desire or an exercise in selfishness? And how did Christianity upend the notion of freedom by …
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In the first episode of our new series about the history of freedom, David and Lea discuss what the idea means to them and why it matters so much. What did freedom mean to Lea growing up in communist Albania? Is it possible to know true freedom without also having experienced oppression? And how is being free different from being lucky? Subscribe n…
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We were joined by countercultural historian Pat Thomas, and Peter Hale, manager of the Ginsberg estate, and discover their new collaboration Material Wealth Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg. * A prolific poet, raconteur, activist, and thinker, Allen Ginsberg was also a prolific collector, meticulously saving letters, postcards, draft n…
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For our final episode in this series, David and Gary discuss the election of 2008, which saw Barack Obama’s extraordinary ascent to the presidency. How did he outthink and outmanoeuvre Hilary Clinton? What role did the financial crisis play in his path to the White House? And was it really the vice-presidential candidates in this election who point…
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Our series on the Ideas Behind American Elections has reached 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan. David and Gary discuss whether Jimmy Carter was always doomed, what made Reaganomics different and how Reagan succeeded in being an optimist and a scaremonger at the same time. Did this election really inaugurate a new era in American politics – an…
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The election of 1936 saw FDR re-elected in a landslide. It was also an election in which fundamental questions about the future direction of America were at stake. David and Gary discuss what made it a turning point for American democracy and ultimately for the wider world. Could the power of the Supreme Court be tamed? What was the true nature of …
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We’ve reached the twentieth century and today’s episode is about the decisive election of 1912. David and Gary discuss the year when the Republicans split, the Democrats recaptured the White House after an absence of twenty years, and American politics shifted decisively towards progressivism. Who were the real progressives? What was Theodore Roose…
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On this very special January night, editor extraordinaire John Freeman was joined by three of his star contributors, Jakuta Alikavazovic, Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Deborah Landau to bid farewell to his literary journal. Buy Freeman’s Conclusions: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/freemans-conclusions * Jakuta Alikavazovic (b.1979) is a Fre…
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