David Runciman:  Image credit: CEU / Daniel Vegel

POLITICS (1): Tensions in Political Thought

                      NandaJoin the discussion after listening to the relevant audio lectures from a podcast series called Talking Politics | History Of Ideas. The Group is planning to explore the tensions between idealism and realism in the evolution of political thought from Hobbes to Fukuyama through Rousseau, Weber, Schumpeter and Marx.
Group Coordinator: Georgia Lepper and Vivek Nanda (click to contact)   
At 4.00pm on these Tuesdays:
September 13, 27; October 11, 25; November 8, 22; December 6.

In-person session from 4.00pm at a public venue in Islington followed by discussions on Zoom on the remaining Tuesday.

Schedule of Video Lectures for Discussion

13 September 2022 is the initial in-person getting to know each other session.

Hobbes27 September will be on Zoom to discuss 'Hobbes on the State'
Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) reimagined how we could do politics. It redefined many of the ideas that continue to shape modern politics: representation, sovereignty, the state. But in Leviathan these ideas have a strange and puzzling power. David explores what Hobbes was trying to achieve and how a vision of politics that came out of the English civil war, can still illuminate the world we live in.

Rousseau11 October will be on Zoom to discuss Rousseau on Inequality
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (also known as the Second Discourse) tells the story of all human history to answer one simple question: how did we end up in such an unequal world? David explores the steps Rousseau traces in the fall of humankind and asks whether this is a radical alternative to the vision offered by Hobbes or just a variant on it. Is Rousseau really such a nice philosopher?

Weber25 October on Zoom to discuss Weber on Leadership
Max Weber’s The Profession and Vocation of Politics (1919) was a lecture that became one of the defining texts of twentieth century political thought. In it, Weber explores the perils and paradoxes of leadership in a modern state. Is it possible to do bad in order to do good? Can violence ever be virtuous? Does political responsibility send politicians mad? David discusses the legacy of Weber’s ideas and asks: who is the true Weberian politician?

Schumpeter8 November on Zoom to discuss Schumpeter on Democracy
Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) contains a famous, and minimal, definition of democracy as the competition between political elites to sell themselves to the electorate. Schumpeter wanted to debunk more elevated ideas of the common good and the popular will. Why then has his theory proved so influential for people who want to rescue democracy as much as those who want to diminish it?

Marx & Engels22 November on Zoom to discuss Marx and Engels on Revolution
The Communist Manifesto (1848) remains the most famous revolutionary text of all. But what was the problem with politics that only a revolution could solve? And why were the working class the only people who could solve it? David explores what Marx and Engels really had to say about capitalism, crisis and class and he asks what still resonates from that message today.

Fukuyama6 December on Zoom to discuss Fukuyama on History
Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992) became associated with the triumph of liberal democracy at the end of the twentieth century. But was Fukuyama really a triumphalist? David explores what Fukuyama had to say about the strengths and weaknesses of liberal democracy and asks whether his analysis still holds true today. What have we learned about the modern state from its history? And can it, and we, really change now?

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