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This month we discuss a book by leading German sociologist and public intellectual, Wolfgang Streeck. Critical Encounters is a compilation of book reviews, discussing neoliberal ideas, politics and economy.
We start off by discussing the value of reading books in today’s noisy, social media-filled, locked-down climate, as well as what makes a good book review. Then we address five themes: the coming of post-industrial society; popular misconceptions about neoliberalism; German hegemony in Europe; Cosmopolitan delusions; and the future of capitalism.
Our interview with Wolfgang Streeck from November 2020 can be found here.
On the Biden administration and Trumpist reaction.
We discuss the riot at the US Capitol and why it was not a (failed) coup attempt. How serious was the event, and what next for Trumpist reaction – will it lead to a split in the Republican Party?
Our guests – journalist Amber Frost and political science academic Daniel Bessner – help us preview what the Biden administration has in store for the US. With Democratic control of both houses, it should be able to pass legislation – but does it have any substantial plans to do so? In foreign policy, we can expect more foreign adventurism and at home, an ominous anti-domestic terrorism bill. Does the alliance of the Democrats with an increasingly domineering Silicon Valley signal the coming-out moment of authoritarian liberalism?
- Riot on the Hill, Mike Davis, NLR Sidecar blog
- Render unto Ourselves, What is Ours—or Caesar Will Seize It, Alex Hochuli, Damage
- What Experts on Extremism Want From the Biden Administration, James D Walsh, NYMag
- Morbid Symptoms Can Persist for a Long Time, Barry Eidlin, Jacobin
- Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath, Glenn Greenwald, Substack
- The revenge of the blob, Alex Ward, Vox
On the ‘war communism’ solution
As we enter the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant turmoil, suffering and lockdown, inevitably the search for systemic causes and systemic responses grows more intense. Swedish ecologist and social theorist Andreas Malm joins us to discuss one possible response – a crisis communism modelled on the War Communism of early Soviet rule, as discussed in his new book ‘Corona, Climate Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty First Century.’ We discuss the nature of our contemporary crises, and how far the left needs its own distinctive form of emergency politics.
On freedom, authority and responsibility.
Theorist Todd McGowan joins us to talk about the End of History, what Hegel can teach us about emancipation, and why Slavoj Zizek’s reinterpretation of Hegel is so important. If contradiction is the basis of modern politics, what is its link to freedom? And what is the connection between freedom and authority? Are stable sources of authority even possible in modernity? We also put some listener questions to Todd, as we learn that the Right, just as much as the Left, evades authority and is unwilling to take responsibility.
We discuss who produces culture and who consumes it – and what those inequalities reveal about culture today. Also, we ask what’s the ploblem with culture anyway and end up defending “low culture” from Red Hot Chili Peppers (well, sorta) to food guys.
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We round off the year by previewing The End of the End of History and responding to your questions and criticisms, including Strasserism or left-conservatism, revolutionary memories, more on Covid and lockdowns, and other bits.
CLR James’s electrifying 1938 history of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins, has long been a staple of many radicals’ libraries. But we now know a lot more about the life of the Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. How does this new knowledge impact our understanding of the Haitian Revolution, and on revolution in general? Sudhir Hazeeresingh, the author of a gripping new biography based on new archival research, ‘Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, talks with us about about revolutionary leadership and Atlantic history.
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We re-evaluate Christopher Lasch’s hugely influential and prescient The Culture of Narcissism. What conjunctural factors led Lasch to his insights, and to what extent are those still present? Lasch wrote during the collapse of postwar Fordist-Keynesian model – is it the collapse of neoliberalism today that makes the book so evocative? And if narcissism has only increased, does the book suggest any political ways-out?
On censorship, platform capitalism and the Left.
We talk to Douglas Lain of Zer0 Books about YouTube taking down their video as a result of the algorithm flagging its content – and what this means for free speech.
Then, this month’s Three Articles on war, conspiracy theory, and Covid (patrons only – sign up at patreon.com/bungacast)
Links for part 1:
Game writer & designer Jonas Kyratzes joins us to talk about the art of games, the culture of gaming, the gamification of society, and the identity politics of gamer culture. How far has Jonas’ own philosophy influenced his writing for games, such as “The Talos Principle”? We also talk politics in both Greece, focusing on Syriza failure. Plus, could Bunga co-host Philip Cunliffe’s book ‘Lenin Lives!’ ever be made into a game?