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.

What Trump Means To Us

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 30 October 2020

29 October 2020 · 44mins

Helen and David talk about four years of Trump. Is it possible to give a balanced picture of Trump's presidency? Have the last four years followed a pattern or has it just been chaos?

Democracy for Sale

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Peter Geoghegan, 28 October 2020

22 October 2020 · 47mins

A conversation with Peter Geoghegan of openDemocracy and Jennifer Cobbe of the Trust and Technology Initiative about Cambridge Analytica, money, power, and what is and isn’t corrupting our democracy. How easy is it to buy influence in British politics? Did Cambridge Analytica break the rules or show just how little difference the rules make anyway? Who has the power to take on Facebook? And what does the British government’s failure to handle the pandemic tell us about the corrosive effects of cronyism?

Trump Stress Test

David Runciman and Sarah Churchwell, 22 October 2020

15 October 2020 · 47mins

David talks to the historian Sarah Churchwell about how well America's political institutions have withstood the stress of the last four years. Have we seen the limits of presidential power or have we discovered how easy it is to trash those limits? Are constitutional checks and balances still intact? Is it really Mitch McConnell who is putting American democracy under stress? Plus we talk about what will be needed to restore the social contract and the perils of political humility.

Can Boris Survive Brexit?

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 29 October 2020

8 October 2020 · 54mins

David and the team talk Brexit and ask whether Boris Johnson has a good way out of the current negotiations with the EU over a trade deal.

One-Term Presidents

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 29 October 2020

1 October 2020 · 1hr 01min

David Runciman talks to Helen Thompson and Gary Gerstle about the historical precedents for US presidents losing office after a single term. Can Trump use the powers of incumbency to prevent it?  Can Biden use Trump's growing chaos to seal his fate? The episode also covers the fall-out from the first presidential debate, and how the politics of the Supreme Court might intersect with a contested election result.

The Case Against Meritocracy

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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, 29 October 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.