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.
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.
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.
Greg and Mike think about thinking—exploring why it is we are afraid of thinking about utopias, what actually constitutes ‘utopian’ thinking, and what blocks us from imagining more just, more equal political horizons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.