Talking Politics

David Runciman’s weekly political chat, produced in partnership with the LRB.
This is just a selection of episodes. For more, subscribe on the links below.

The Case Against Meritocracy

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 30 September 2020

24 September 2020 · 53mins

David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the philosopher Michael Sandel about the damage that the idea of rewarding people on merit has done to education, democracy and public life. Why is it wrong to try to match the best students to the best universities? What is credentialism and how has it warped the way work is rewarded?  Whatever happened to the idea of the common good?

The Destructive Power of Tech

David Runciman, 24 September 2020

17 September 2020 · 42mins

David Runciman talks to the American historian Jill Lepore about the damage new technology can do to democracy, from the 1960s to the present. Who first tried to manipulate the minds of the electorate? Where did the money come from? What happened when the same technology was applied to fighting the Vietnam War? The episode also covers US presidential elections from 1960 to 2020: do the machines really decide who is going to win?

The Incompetence of Boris Johnson

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 30 September 2020

10 September 2020 · 46mins

David Runciman and guests talk about the politics of incompetence: when does it matter and when can politicians get away with it?

The Politics of Loneliness

David Runciman, 24 September 2020

3 September 2020 · 45mins

David talks to economist and author Noreena Hertz about loneliness and its impact on all our lives.

Thomas Piketty: Three Years On

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 24 September 2020

27 August 2020 · 43mins

Revisiting the interview with the economist Thomas Piketty recorded the week Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency, David and Helen ask what have we learned since? Where does Macron fit on the left/right political spectrum? What has his cult of personality done to French politics? And are we anywhere nearer knowing how to tackle the problem of inequality?

Has Covid Rescued Europe?

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 24 September 2020

20 August 2020 · 45mins

This week we look at the big changes in European politics during the crisis and ask who has managed to turn it around.  Is Italy now a model for crisis management?  Has there been a reorientation in German politics under Merkel?  Can the EU rescue fund really rescue the European project?

Judith Butler: Then and Now

David Runciman and Judith Butler, 24 September 2020

13 August 2020 · 59mins

This week two conversations with the feminist theorist and writer Judith Butler: one recorded the week Trump won the presidency in 2016 and one recorded a few days ago, as his presidency (just maybe) approaches its end.

Brexit, Trump and Aldershot FC

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 24 September 2020

6 August 2020 · 43mins

David and Helen talk with the historian David Kynaston about his diary of the 2016-17 season in football and in politics, when a lot happened both to the world and to his beloved Aldershot FC. It's a conversation about loyalty, identity and belonging, and about what sorts of change we can tolerate and what we can't. Plus Helen reflects on her life as a West Ham fan.

Whose Work is it Anyway?

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 24 September 2020

30 July 2020 · 42mins

David and Helen talk with Diane Coyle about what the pandemic has revealed about the changing nature of work. Who is doing more of it? Who is still getting paid for it? Which jobs are not coming back? Plus we explore the impact of the digital revolution on how we get rewarded for what we do and we ask whether the big tech firms can continue to hoover up so many of the rewards. Is Jeff Bezos really worth it?

Revisiting Yuval Harari

David Runciman, 24 September 2020

23 July 2020 · 47mins

David Runciman launched the Talking Politics podcast in 2016 with a conversation with Yuval Noah Harari about his book Homo Deus. In this episode, Runciman reflects on what difference the four subsequent years have made to how we think about the themes that emerged in that conversation, themes which the podcast has revisited regularly: the power of the big technology companies; the vulnerability of democracy; and the deep uncertainty we all feel about the future. 

Twilight of Democracy

David Runciman and Anne Applebaum, 24 September 2020

16 July 2020 · 43mins

David talks to the writer Anne Applebaum about her highly personal new book, which charts the last twenty years of broken friendships and democratic failure.

Helen’s History of Ideas

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 24 September 2020

9 July 2020 · 48mins

David talks with Helen to get her take on the history of ideas – both what’s there and what’s missing. Why start with Hobbes?  What can we learn from the Federalist Papers? Where’s Nietzsche? Plus they talk about whether understanding where political ideas come from is liberating or limiting, and ask how many of them were just rationalisations for power.

James Meek on Healthcare: from WHO to NHS

David Runciman and James Meek, 24 September 2020

6 July 2020 · 38mins

David Runciman talks to James Meek about what the Covid crisis has revealed about how we understand healthcare and how we think about the organisations tasked with delivering it.  Their conversation covers hospitals and community care, Trump's America and Johnson's Britain, and about the WHO and the NHS.

Brexit in the Age of Covid

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Anand Menon, 24 September 2020

2 July 2020 · 44mins

David and Helen are joined by Anand Menon and Catherine Barnard to assess the impact of the Covid crisis on the fate of Brexit and its implications for what might happen later this year.

Britain Wrestles with its Past

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Fintan O’Toole, 24 September 2020

25 June 2020 · 48mins

David and Helen talk with the writer and political commentator Fintan O’Toole about how British politics can and should deal with its imperial past in the age of Brexit. From battles over statues to fights over nationalism we explore whether history has become the new democratic divide. Why does Churchill loom so large over our politics? Can Labour reclaim the mantle of patriotism? Will the Union survive the history wars?