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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?

Readings:

 

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.

Readings:

 

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.

Readings:

On “culture”.
 
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.
 
Reading:
Culture is Bad for You, Orian Brook, Dave O'Brien and Mark Taylor, Manchester UP

This episode is for subscribers only. Sign up at patreon.com/bungacast 

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.  

Reading:

This is a short sample. Full episode is available for subscribers at patreon.com/bungacast 

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?

Readings:

 

Full episode for subscribers only. Sign up at patreon.com/bungacast
 
On “culture”.
 
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.
 
Reading:
Culture is Bad for You, Orian Brook, Dave O'Brien and Mark Taylor, Manchester UP

On Germany, the hegemon of Europe.

We are joined by leading German public intellectual Wolfgang Streeck to discuss the role of Germany at the end of the End of History. How is it and the EU faring under the assault of Covid-19? We cover Germany’s economic miracles - postwar and post-2008 -, Merkel’s tactical brilliance and strategic ignorance, and how France retains more of a sense of history.

Also: why democracy sometimes needs an AK47.

Readings:

 

On the US election, a huge turnout and the end of Trump.

We survey the results of the presidential and legislative elections, peer through the exit polls and discuss some counterintuitive facts: Florida goes Trump but opts for a $15 minimum wage; California goes Biden while Uber gets its way; Trump did protectionism but it didn't help him win the Rustbelt; the Republicans win over more Latinos – but do Latinos even exist?

And the big questions: Will Biden and the Democrats have any authority now that they don't have anti-Trumpism to drive them? Is a Biden administration to be a Silicon Valley dictatorship? And will the GOP be Trumpism without Trump?

Readings:

Full episode is for subscribers only. Sign up at patreon.com/bungacast 

In this latest Three Articles, we discuss cosmopolitanism, the end of austerity (maybe?) and social control in the pandemic. 

Readings:

 
On why anti-fascism is a problem. 
 
The Trump presidency and the current protests in the US have led many to argue this is just like the 1930s. The implication is that fascism is rising and the Left must join up with liberals to oppose this evil. Why is this historical analogy so wide of the mark? Was the Left really culpable for the fascists rise to power? And anyway, our age is vastly different to interwar Europe. So what is the real function of calls to anti-fascism?
 
Readings:

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