a podcast about the history, theory, and practice of democratic socialism

"The destiny of the twenty-first century will be shaped by the possibility or collapse of a shareable world." — Toni Morrison

FEATURED EPISODE

20. The purpose of doing history: to create knowledge of the past or to inform where we are headed in the future?

Greg and Mike think about what the practice of history is for — whether or not it should have a purpose or destination, how it opens up or forecloses certain possibilities, and what historical ‘objectivity’ really consists of.


19. What are revolutions, and when are they necessary?

Greg and Mike talk (political, social, economic) revolution: what it is, when it’s necessary, how it’s represented, and what history has to teach us. Then, they turn to the present—the revolutions, or lack thereof, that we’re facing, and the challenges that incipient revolutionaries face in current conditions.


18. Theories of private property in the age of capitalism: Hobbes and Locke

Greg and Mike dive into the intellectual origins of private property, and how the idea of private property was justified (or combatted) by different philosophers and theorists. Then, they relate the question of private property to different forms of utopia, and with that, return to the question of human nature as inscribed in the differing stories around private property and the nascent theory of liberalism.


17. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 5: Thomas More’s “Utopia”

Greg and Mike discuss two utopian texts—Thomas More’s Utopia and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis—to think about how envisioning alternative societies casts light both on possibilities for other worlds, and changes the way we view our own. In particular, both texts envision the commons, or a common wealth, in ways still relevant for our society today. Greg and Mike also touch on the question of education, as currently embodied in institutions, and the kinds of education we need going forward.


16. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 4: the Western philosophical tradition (Plato)

Greg and Mike discuss the utopian ideas of Plato’s Republic, challenging the commonly held notion that he was speaking primarily about morality and instead reading him as a social theorist. Then, building off the centrality of education in Plato’s utopia, they start to imagine what education in a fairer society than our own might look like.


15. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 3: socialist values and culture in the Bible

Greg and Mike explore how the Bible expresses utopian ideals, particularly around class and class society, and reflects ongoing ideological dilemmas the left today still has to face. Then, they look at real historical examples of people using religion for social change, and weigh the difficult question of two different historical times: the slow time of individual transformation, and the sometimes very rapid time of social and political transformation.


14. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 2: what makes us human?

Greg and Mike continue the discussion of political utopias by explaining how concepts of human nature—the idea that human potential is limited by certain fixed properties, whatever they may be—limits political thinking both in the past and present. Then, Greg and Mike debate how limitlessly we should be thinking of our political potential—if there is a balance to be struck between who we are and who we could be.


13. The history and value of utopian thinking part 1: introduction

Greg and Mike explore how the Bible expresses utopian ideals, particularly around class and class society, and reflects ongoing ideological dilemmas the left today still has to face. Then, they look at real historical examples of people using religion for social change, and weigh the difficult question of two different historical times: the slow time of individual transformation, and the sometimes very rapid time of social and political transformation.


12. Back to fundamentals: private property, the commons, and democracy

After an extensive dive into recent history, Greg and Mike try to define just how radical a change we need, and then look forward to two possibilities for change—the commons as an alternate way of conceptualizing property, and education as an alternate means of revitalizing democracy.


11. The legacy of the Cold War part 4: its influence today

Greg and Mike end their review of the Cold War by diving into the overwhelming intellectual and ideological impact of the Cold War, including its impact on the organization of higher education, cultural discourse, and the horizons of political possibility. With greater conceptual clarity in hand, they then more precisely cleave social democracy from democratic socialism.


10. The legacy of the Cold War part 3: the four post-war zones and their problems (continued)

Greg and Mike explore the Cold War from the perspective of the East, describing how it turned into a nightmarish dictatorship but also how the American (or Western) view of that dictatorship developed. They then turn to further discuss the actual ideological and political battles, particularly as waged in the ‘Middle West’—grappling with a legacy of fascism much larger than Germany and Italy—and the ‘Third World,’ ending on some of the surprising legacies we can see today.


09. The legacy of the Cold War part 2: the four post-war zones and their problems

Greg and Mike delve right in to the Cold War—or rather, the Cold Wars, laying out the four major world regions of the time and examining how the opposition between the ’West’ and ‘East’ operated ideologically, economically, militarily, and culturally.


08. The legacy of the Cold War part 1: the post-World War II context

Greg and Mike dive into the history leading up to the Cold War, from the Russian Revolution through the period following World War II, in order to show that the way we think about the history of socialism influences the way we think about it as a concept today. Then, they get into defining what precisely separates ‘ameliorated capitalism,’ social democracy, and democratic socialism.


07. The twin births of capitalism and socialism, and where that’s left us

Greg and Mike delve into the historical conditions that permitted the birth of capitalism and the ways in which it was contested from the beginning, contrasting this with the traditional Marxist view that socialism comes after capitalism as a response. Then, Mike begins to recast the history of the 20th century as a series of three different responses to the problems of capitalism—communism, fascism, and ameliorated capitalism—that vied for power and control, before starting to clearly establish a distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism.


06. A history of the study of history (and why it matters)

In a direct sequel to the last episode, Greg and Mike delve into one of the most important historical legacies of capitalism—the splitting of intellectual disciplines, particularly in the social sciences—and how it shapes and constrains our thinking.


05. Democratic socialism and our understanding of history

The study of capitalism and socialism’s history begins with an extended consideration of what history is, and how it has been differently conceived over time—the history of history, which in some ways is also the history of capitalism. Greg and Mike explore this question to parse out the differences between a democratic socialist and capitalist perspective on history, to understand why it might be important to study history at all.


04. Creating change: The stories we have and the stories we need

Greg and Big Mike discuss the way stories, fictional or not, influence how we think about the world, how we think about what is possible in the world, and how we need to shift our stories to shift what we think is possible.


03. Studying history: What does real change look like?

In this transitional episode, Greg and Mike talk more about culture, which includes not just the world but the way we think the world, and offer some concrete examples while opening up a discussion about the history of capitalism writ large.


02. What is our object of study? Seeing things holistically

Greg and Mike discuss the vital importance of thinking holistically, working with an expanded concept of ‘culture’ to define why we have to think about material and immaterial issues at the same time, and some of the common intellectual habits that prevent us from seeing things holistically.


01. First things: The many crises we share

Greg and Mike discuss the vital importance of thinking holistically, working with an expanded concept of ‘culture’ to define why we have to think about material and immaterial issues at the same time, and some of the common intellectual habits that prevent us from seeing things holistically.


Thought companion #01: some of the many things Richard Dawkins doesn’t understand about religion

In this guest episode hosted by Greg and his daughter, Erica, they pick through the atheism of Richard Dawkins to find and better understand how modern atheism is a limiting worldview, the mechanisms that lead us to truth, and the uses of religion that go beyond it as a metaphysical description of the world.