On modernism and its end. 

We're joined by 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Benjamin Moser to discuss the tensions between hating your national culture and wanting to leave it behind, and the effacement of national culture by postmodern homogenisation.

We talk about his biography of Susan Sontag, plus a range of other questions: Brazil, USA, literature, architecture, sex, imperialism, Freud, the image and representation, and contemporary wokeness.

Moser's Books:

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On class.

Class as an idea and an identity is now supposedly redundant. It’s been replaced by conflicts between generations and transcended by more up-to-date identities linking people together through common experiences of victimhood and inequality, rather than along lines related to production or power. Or is it? We discuss these questions with Ben Tippett, author of Split: Class Divides Uncovered to find out whether class still has any place in society and theory (spoiler: it does).

Reading:

 

On political decline and realignment.

The editor of American Affairs joins us to discuss the decay of conservatism and we ask whether this decay doesn't apply to other parts of the political spectrum too. Is today's 'class struggle' really just between the upper-middle class and the elite? And we discuss the 'late-Soviet' USA - the sense of decline embodied in the gerontocracy of the ruling class. 

Readings:

 
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We discuss a chapter taken from James Heartfield's "The 'Death of the Subject' Explained", which was recently republished in Damage Magazine as The New Social Movements Against the Old Left
 
Thanks for all your questions and points, we address them in the last third of the episode.
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In this semi-regular slot, we respond to your comments and criticisms received over the past month or so.

 
Discussion features whether we're right about the "end of the End of History", social conservatism, policing in America, British declinism, the use and misuses of Islamism, and more.

On US foreign policy.   

Following on from our episode on the political-economy of dollar hegemony (no. 139), we turn to look at how the dollar underpins American empire. Is 'permawar' a product of structural factors, rather than merely the result of poor policy decisions? And how is this related to the global financial architecture? 

We also discuss how the current period fits into US history, how US foreign policy might evolve over the next four years, and what a left-wing alternative foreign policy might look like.

Readings:

On Lebanon's crisis.

We call up Rima Majed in Beirut to talk us through the aftermath of the enormous explosion and ensuing protests. How has Lebanon's history since the civil war created such a profound, multi-layered crisis? We cover the desperate economic situation and the October 2019 revolt, before going deep on the politics of sectarianism, the regional scenario impacting Lebanon, the legacy of the Arab Spring, and the risks of foreign intervention.  

Running Order:

  • Beirut explosion and protests - (07:04)
  • Lebanese history 1990-today - (23:53)
  • Economic crisis - (38:05)
  • Sectarianism - (51:16)
  • Regional scenario and foreign intervention - (01:04:54)
  • International solidarity - (01:24:38)

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Readings (all Rima Majed):

 

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In this latest Three Articles, we discuss the durability or otherwise of right-populism in the UK, US and Brazil.

Reading:

On dollar hegemony.

 

Dutch disease has long been seen as the curse of resource-rich economies in which a currency appreciates and jobs are lost overseas. But what if the greenback is having the same effects on the US economy, the largest in the world? Many historians and economists have studied the global effects of having the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. But what is the effect on the US economy itself? The authors of an influential essay on this question join us to talk about the feedback effects of dollar hegemony. 

 

Readings:

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The protests in the US against police violence - and their globalisation - prompts us to discuss radical proposals for what to do about the police. We look at the US, the UK and Brazil, each in their own national contexts, and debate how policing is structure and what makes realistic responses to state repression a political priority.

Readings:
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This month we discuss Wolfgang Streeck's reading of Friedrich Engels which appeared recently in the New Left Review, which deals with the Marxian understanding of war and technology, how they relate to social development, and what this all means for our understanding of the state.

 

On British decline.

Much ink has been spilled over the Britain’s fate since the end of its empire. Could it be that decline has been overstated? And what will happen to Britain as it leaves the European Union? We discuss how the history of the Industrial Revolution and Cold War militarism still shapes British politics today, as David Edgerton joins us to talk about the his latest book, 'The Rise and Fall of the British Nation'.

Readings:

Singapore is held up as a free-market utopia: rich, orderly and clean. But the reality is quite different. Why does Singapore exert such a magnetism for neoliberals, when its reality strays from orthodox prescriptions? What and who made this model 'global city', and how does its communist and anti-colonial past lead to its hyper-capitalist present?

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Mailbag + bonus content ft. Corey Robin 
 
In this new semi-regular slot, we feature bonus recordings (here, 20mins of additional discussion with Corey Robin from episode 129) and respond to your comments and criticisms received over the past month.

This is a sample. For the full episode, sign up at patreon.com/bungacast 

The three of us discuss some of the themes that emerged from our interview with Krithika Varagur (ep.133) - the entanglement of the US state with Islamism, the Americanisation of the Middle East, and especially the Gulf States, and Wahhabism as religious justification for the Saudi state project.

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