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Podcast Profile: What's Left of Philosophy

podcast imageTwitter: @leftofphil@whitherutopia@oglynwil@classreductress
88 episodes
2020 to present
Average episode: 54 minutes
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Categories: Political Philosophy • Three+ Hosts

Podcaster's summary: In What’s Left of Philosophy Gil Morejón (@gdmorejon), Lillian Cicerchia (@lilcicerch), Owen Glyn-Williams (@oglynwil), and William Paris (@williammparis) discuss philosophy’s radical histories and contemporary political theory. Philosophy isn't dead, but what's left? Support us at

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:08 UTC. Episodes: 88. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2024-Apr-02 • 59 minutes
86 | Right-Wing Political Thought w/ Dr. Matt McManus
In this episode, we are joined by Matt McManus to discuss his research into the history and philosophy of right-wing politics in his book The Political Right and Equality. We discuss the nature of conservatism as an irrationalist reaction to modernist ideas about human egalitarianism, the rhetorical strategies of the right, and the historical conditions under which moderate conservatism turns over into extremist fascist reaction. We pay special attention to Edmund Burke’s aestheticization of politics and Jo...
2024-Mar-19 • 9 minutes
85 TEASER | Giving an Account of Oneself: Judith Butler's Ethics of Opacity
In this episode we delve into Judith Butler’s Giving an Account of Oneself, an illuminating book from 2005 that examines subject-formation and the relationship between the self, other people, and the normative social order. We reconstruct Butler’s efforts to ground a philosophical ethics with positive claims in the insights of three theoretical traditions that have generally been understood to frustrate moral philosophy: post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and critical theory. Our core focus is the question...
2024-Mar-07 • 67 minutes
84 | Sex in Philosophy w/ Dr. Manon Garcia
In this episode, we talk with Manon Garcia about the problem of women’s submissiveness in feminist philosophy. Then we discuss longstanding feminist criticisms of the concept of consent, what we want from consent in the first place, and what it could mean in the future. And we wonder if the reason it’s so hard to talk about sex in philosophy is that we don’t really think about it philosophically enough, which is too bad, since as it turns out, good sex is an integral part of the good life. leftofphilosophy...
2024-Feb-19 • 56 minutes
83 | What is Aesthetics? Part III: Ernst Bloch: In Search of the Red Sublime
In this episode, we return to the work of Ernst Bloch and his theory concerning “aesthetic genius” and the possibility of the red sublime. Bloch attempts to construct a Marxist account of art that can explain how it is possible for aesthetic objects to provoke experiences of beauty and sublimity long after the historical conditions of their genesis have passed. Bloch thinks certain artworks contain a utopian surplus that beckons for a not-yet existing classless society. In other words, Bloch thinks we can i...
2024-Feb-07 • 62 minutes
82 | The State and Right: Kant's Metaphysics of Morals
In this episode, we dig into the Doctrine of Right in Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals to see what he has to say about the state. Turns out he’s a fan, because the state is what guarantees the possibility of justice and perpetual peace. Nice! But he also thinks that the state should be authorized to kill you. And that you don’t have the right to rebel even if the sovereign is abusing their power. And that you shouldn’t think too hard about the origin of the state. And that human beings are transcendentally disp...
2024-Jan-22 • 11 minutes
81 TEASER | David Harvey: Capitalist Urbanization and the Right to the City
In this episode, we talk about David Harvey’s analysis of the urbanization process as a form of accumulated surplus capital expenditure and consider the built environment as a crucial site of class struggle. The physical constitution of the built environment in which we live mediates our forms of sociality and political dispositions, not to mention how important it is for making mass action and organization possible. So it sure sucks that the shape of its development has been determined by the needs of capi...
2024-Jan-09 • 83 minutes
80 | Grab Bag Special Episode with Michael Peterson! Utilitarian Harems, Nietzschean Ciphers, and Cowardly Chatbots
In this nonstandard episode, Gil and Owen are joined by Michael Peterson to talk about how dreadful utilitarianism is, consider some of the offers that folks have made to come guest on the show, and reflect on how deeply unimpressive LLMs are when it comes to actually taking a position. Just having some fun with it! Video of the recording is available to our supporters on | @leftofphilReferences:National Council on Disability, Response to Singer
2023-Dec-18 • 65 minutes
79 | What Could It Mean to Say, “Capitalism Causes Sexism and Racism”? with Professor Vanessa Wills
In this episode, we are joined by George Washington University Associate Professor Vanessa Wills to discuss her article “What Could It Mean to Say, ‘Capitalism Causes Sexism and Racism’?” We try to figure out why critics badly understand the Marxist concept of causation as it concerns identity-based oppression, why labor and production provide the conditions of possibility for science, and whether the abolition of capitalism would automatically mean the end of racism and sexism (no, but it sure would help!)...
2023-Dec-05 • 58 minutes
78 | Perry Anderson's Considerations on Western Marxism
In this episode we get the Perry Anderson treatment and ask if we philosophers are the problem with how Western Marxism has evolved over time. We discuss what Anderson calls the formal and thematic shifts that happened within this theoretical tradition once the philosophers got in the driver’s seat. Partly ethnographic, partly analytical, and a little more meta-philosophical than usual. We hope you’ll indulge us this once as we ask ourselves what the hell we’re doing. | @leftofphilRefer...
2023-Nov-22 • 59 minutes
77 | What is Ecosocialism? Part I. John Bellamy Foster and the Metabolic Rift
In this inaugural episode of our new series on ecosocialism, we discuss some writings by ecological Marxist thinker John Bellamy Foster, whose main contribution to contemporary discourse is his elaboration of the theory of metabolic rift. We talk about how this concept is meant to explain why the capitalist mode of production is environmentally unsustainable in principle, but also dig into why this approach is not totally satisfying. By the end of the discussion we’re bumming ourselves out about the unfoldi...
2023-Nov-06 • 56 minutes
76 | For and Against Participatory Planning & Economics
In this patron-requested episode, we discuss the proposals for participatory planning and economics developed by Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert. They contend that socialists should want to organize social production and consumption neither through authoritarian centralized planning, nor through market mechanisms, but by democratic consensus attained through federated workers’ councils. We appreciate the scope of the ambition and their visionary utopianism, and generally buy their criticisms of markets, but...
2023-Oct-24 • 8 minutes
75 TEASER | Power, Reason, and Justification: Rainer Forst’s Critical Theory
In this episode, we discuss the social theory of the Kantian critical theorist Rainer Forst in his book Normativity and Power. We work through how well his theory of the relationship between power and reason accounts for economic domination, why he thinks power and violence ought to be distinguished, and whether critical theory can escape the problem of circularity in judging the difference between better and worse reasons for acting. Do we have reasons for acting? Does it matter? Come get Kant-pilled and l...
2023-Oct-02 • 59 minutes
74 | Time and Work Discipline with E.P. Thompson
In this episode, we discuss E.P. Thompson’s amazing article “Time, Work Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism.” E.P. Thompson is the legendary Marxist historian and author of The Making of the English Working Class. How did time become money? And why can’t we just pass it away? Lots of work discipline, as it turns out, which leads us to ask – maybe laziness is a virtue? | @leftofphil References:E.P. Thompson, “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” in Class: The Anthology, ed...
2023-Sep-20 • 61 minutes
73 | Effective Altruism is Terrible w/ John Duncan
In this episode, we are joined by researcher and video essayist John Duncan (@Johntheduncan) to talk about the Effective Altruism movement and why it is so comprehensively awful. Granted, it’s got some pretty solid marketing: who could be against altruism, especially if it’s effective? But consider: from its individualism to its focus on cost-effectiveness and rates of return, from its idealist historiography to its refusal to cop to its obvious utilitarianism, from its naive empiricism to its wild-eyed obs...
2023-Sep-13 • 54 minutes
72 | Gerrard Winstanley and the English Revolution
In this episode we talk English Revolutionary politics in the mid-17th century, and specifically the philosophy and practice of legendary 'Digger' Gerrard Winstanley. We discuss his radically egalitarian conviction that the execution of Charles I was not sufficient, and that all the 'kingly power' of landlords and owners must be abolished to complete the Revolution. We draw a stark contrast between Winstanley and his contemporary, Thomas Hobbes, while distinguishing his conception of the...
2023-Aug-22 • 2 minutes
Updates and Live Show Announcement! 8/22/2023
No episode this week BUT we've got some big news: that's right, at long last, a What's Left of Philosophy live show! Come see us on October 12th at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto, 8pm onward. More details coming soon. Thanks for everything!leftofphilosophy.comMusic: Vintage Memories by Schematist |
2023-Aug-08 • 20 minutes
71 TEASER | What is Liberalism? Part IV: Neo-Republicanism
In this episode, we dive into Philip Pettit’s Republicanism from 1997, which argued that republicanism and liberalism are not the fast friends many assume them to be. However, many liberal and left philosophers think that neo-republicanism is just riding the coattails of liberalism or that it’s just another bourgeois moralism. So what’s the big deal? And how radical can republicanism be? This is just a short clip from the full episode, which is available to our subscribers on
2023-Jul-28 • 59 minutes
70 | How Does Propaganda Work? w/ Dr. Megan Hyska
In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Megan Hyska to discuss her work on propaganda. She takes us through the history of the term propaganda, what makes propaganda a distinctly political concept, and how propaganda helps create or inhibit group agency. She shows why thinking that assumes propaganda can only work by manipulating our irrationality fails to help us see that propaganda can be effective even when it does not trick or deceive us. This is a great episode for those of you interested in the relation...
2023-Jul-13 • 57 minutes
69 | Mute Compulsion: Economic Power and Capitalist Domination w/ Dr. Søren Mau
On this episode we are joined by Dr. Søren Mau to discuss his new book, Mute Compulsion: A Marxist Theory of the Economic Power of Capital. We talk about why economic power is different than violence and ideology, what’s distinctive about the human being in terms of its metabolic exchange with nature, and what this means for capitalist reproduction and the possibility of its interruption. Speaking of interruptions, we find ourselves subject to reactionary infrastructural violence when the internet crashes m...
2023-Jun-27 • 58 minutes
68 | F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom: Competition, Individualism, and the Politics of Reaction
In this episode, we discuss the ideas of economist and political philosopher F.A. Hayek as they appear in his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom. This influential book was written in response to what Hayek saw as the trend towards socialism in the mid-twentieth century and it offers his defense of “classical liberalism.” We examine the political and epistemological premises of Hayek’s theory of liberty and free markets, question his assumptions on human nature and cooperation, and near the end critique his odiou...
2023-Jun-13 • 17 minutes
67 TEASER | What is Liberalism? III. John Rawls and Political Liberalism
In this episode we finally get down and dirty with the big dog of Anglophone political philosophy, John Rawls. We discuss his 1993 book Political Liberalism, which expands on his earlier theory of justice to develop an account of the pluralistic tolerance at the heart of a liberal society characterized by the fact of a diversity of incommensurate but reasonable worldviews. We talk about what Rawlsian theory genuinely has going for it, but also pull no punches about the serious theoretical and practical limi...
2023-May-30 • 61 minutes
66 | What's Left of Equality? Between Opportunity and Flourishing
In this episode, we unpack tensions between theories of equality that emphasize opportunity and outcomes in a discussion based upon Christine Sypnowich’s recent Boston Review article, “Is Equal Opportunity Enough?” We also discuss our very own William Paris’s response to Sypnowich in his essay “The Art of Equality.” We debate whether liberalism is tied to capitalist institutions, what it means to lead a flourishing life, and why French social clubs may contain part of the answer. We end with a stirring defe...
2023-May-17 • 61 minutes
65 | Gramsci's The Modern Prince
In this episode we talk about Antonio Gramsci’s book The Modern Prince. Written while imprisoned by the fascists in Mussolini’s Italy, the work is a reflection on the party as a form of organization and the importance of leadership for revolutionary socialist politics. We discuss Gramsci’s realist approach to politics as an art and science, his insistence on partisanship as a condition for objectivity in socio-political analysis, and what he might have to say about the sad state of leftist movement today. W...
2023-May-01 • 63 minutes
64 | What is Aesthetics? Part II. How Does it Feel to be a Problem, Hip Hop Nation? W/ Dr. Michael Thomas
In this episode, we are joined by Michael Thomas to talk about Black aesthetics and hip hop in particular. We work through what it means for hip hop to be a 'problem space' that reconstructs the cultural contradictions and political messaging of a racist society in a way that is not essentializing and that aspires to address social problems without producing easy answers. Main themes include hip hop's form, vibe, and story-telling capacity across | @leftofphil...
2023-Apr-17 • 9 minutes
63 Teaser | Lenin's State and Revolution
In this patrons-only episode we discuss Vladimir Lenin’s 1917 The State and Revolution. When he’s not snarkily dragging his political opponents for their opportunism and philistinism, Lenin tries to work through some of the most hotly contested ideas in Marxian political theory, including the role of the state in capitalist society and its ‘withering away’ after the revolution, the problems of bourgeois parliamentarianism and bureaucracy, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. How could this polemical int...
2023-Apr-03 • 61 minutes
62 | What is Aesthetics? Part I. Schiller's Letters on Aesthetic Education
In this inaugural episode of our new series on aesthetics, we discuss Friedrich Schiller’s 1795 Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. We begin with his assessment of the French Revolution and its perceived failure to deliver on its lofty republican ideals, focusing on his ascription of this failure to the fragmentation of the modern self and society. We then attempt to wrap our minds around Schiller’s proposed corrective: an ‘aesthetic education’ that mobilizes art and beauty toward the end of dialecti...
2023-Mar-20 • 66 minutes
61 | Frantz Fanon, Racism, and the Alienation of Reason
In this episode, we take a deep dive into Frantz Fanon’s first book Black Skin, White Masks. We discuss his views on racism as a form of alienation and narcissism, assess that status of reason throughout his argument, and interrogate his emphasis on futurity over history. Throughout we defend his theory of social pathology and his embrace of reason and universal humanism. This episode should be a stimulating introduction to the anticolonial and revolutionary work of Fanon for both newcomers and experts!left...
2023-Mar-06 • 71 minutes
60 | Antifascism and Emancipatory Violence with Devin Zane Shaw
In this episode we are joined by Devin Zane Shaw to talk about his book Philosophy of Antifascism: Punching Nazis and Fighting White Supremacy. We discuss the concept of the ‘three-way fight’, what Beauvoir’s analysis of the antinomies of action can teach us about emancipatory violence, and the necessity of community self-defense. Ambiguity may be an inescapable condition for those of us who truly care about freedom, but you just cannot have dinner with nazis, | @leftofphilRefe...
2023-Feb-20 • 66 minutes
59 | Herbert Marcuse B-Sides Mixtape
Feeling alienated? In this episode, we are here for you. We dig into three periods of Herbert Marcuse’s thought. Marcuse was Martin Heidegger’s student in the 1920s, a member of the Frankfurt School in the 1930s, the philosopher of the New Left in the 1960s, and stays haunting the petit bourgeois in the 2020s. We pay our respects and get to the bottom of his influence on critical theory, social movements, and the culture. | @leftofphilReferences:Herbert Marcuse, Heideggerian Marxism, ed...
2023-Feb-06 • 18 minutes
58 Teaser | Angela Davis: Dialectics of Oppression and Liberation
In this episode we dig into some early writings by the incomparable black radical feminist and communist Angela Davis. We reflect on some of the contradictions involved in the transformation of women’s labor in the development of patriarchal capitalism and the latent potentials for the emancipated life in common that these developments nevertheless carry within themselves. We talk about the radical potential of industrializing housework, discuss strategies for the formation of effective solidarity, and—as u...
2023-Jan-30 • 71 minutes
UNLOCKED: 24 | What's Left of Foucault?
We couldn't put together a new episode for you this week, so we thought we'd unlock an old Patreon exclusive! Thanks to everyone who helped us pick which one by voting in our Twitter poll. We'll be back with a brand new ep next Monday.--In this episode, the crew takes on a beloved figure of the academic 'left': Michel Foucault. The discussion gravitates around Foucault’s work in the early 1970’s on the ‘punitive society’, power as civil war, and popular rebellion. This post-‘68 peri...
2023-Jan-16 • 62 minutes
57 | What is Liberalism? Part II. Policing and Political Economy
In the second installment of our “What is Liberalism?” series we discuss the relationship between liberalism and the institution of the police. If a core principle of liberalism is the equal application of the law, then some enforcement mechanism is necessary to ensure the stability of the social order. The problem is that in liberal democracies the police are asked to equally apply the law while maintaining an unequal social order. These two tasks create legitimacy crises for the state. We discuss how the...
2023-Jan-01 • 31 minutes
56 | Special Minisode: Hating on New Year’s Day with Antonio Gramsci
In this special holiday episode we bring in the new year by being complete and total haters! We keep it real light and breezy for this short little convo. We drag Auld Lang Syne, the concept of New Years’ resolutions, the very notion of historical dates, and also for some reason the city of Boston. At one point the discussion turns into an unboxing video, which is great content for a podcast, famously a visual medium. Oh and we read Antonio Gramsci’s 1916 essay “I Hate New Year’s Day”. We’re just having som...
2022-Dec-20 • 9 minutes
55 Teaser | Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was many things, but chill was not one of them. In this patron-exclusive episode we have no chill either, getting into it about the renegade philosopher’s Discourse on Inequality, his totally bizarre fictional state of nature, and his stunningly prescient critique of modern society. You know, we aren’t primitivists at all, but sometimes it’s kinda hard to maintain that this whole civilization thing was worth it. We gave dogs anxiety disorders and spend our spare time licking the boots ...
2022-Dec-05 • 67 minutes
54 | Expropriating the Expropriators w/ Dr. Jacob Blumenfeld
In this episode we talk with Jacob Blumenfeld about the concept of property in German Idealism. As it turns out, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel each had a pretty different idea of property than their Anglo counterparts who were out there apologizing for private property as a natural right and capitalism as freedom. Some might even say that socialism is what completes the system of German Idealism. They might also say that Fichte is totally bonkers. In either case, the Germans are both way cooler and way weirder th...
2022-Nov-28 • 70 minutes
53 | Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: Anti-Materialist Sociology
Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism is probably the most important foundational text for modern sociology, and we think that’s kind of a downer, actually. We talk about how we are thoroughly unconvinced about his central historical claim in the book, which seems to be that the Protestant reformation created the subjective conditions for the emergence of capitalism somehow. We also take him to task for his weak criticism of historical materialism and for his own sorely lacking methodo...
2022-Nov-14 • 63 minutes
52 | Mike Davis: Historical Materialism and Militant Theory
This is a tribute episode to the great Mike Davis, the visionary social theorist and comrade who recently passed away in October 2022. We discuss his pathbreaking social analysis of Los Angeles, his political economy of urban life, his fondness for and reactivation of Marx’s political writings, and his unique ability to locate concrete phenomena within a specific historical conjuncture. Despite his clairvoyance about our disastrous present trajectory, we show why he was not the ‘prophet of doom’ that some t...
2022-Nov-01 • 21 minutes
51 Teaser | What is Utopia? Part III. Hermeneutics and Utopia: From Hans-Georg Gadamer to Ernst Bloch (Part 2)
In Part Two of our two-part mini-series we discuss the work of Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope. We ask what difference there is between the thought of Bloch and Theodor Adorno, how hope and utopia enable political action, and why so many traditions seem to abhor the concept of utopia. Expand your horizons and come learn how to hope again in this episode!This is just a small clip from the full episode, which is available to Bloch, The Principle of Hope, vols. 1...
2022-Oct-17 • 63 minutes
50 | Hermeneutics and Utopia: From Hans-Georg Gadamer to Ernst Bloch (Part 1)
In part one of our two-part mini-series on hermeneutics and utopia we discuss the thought of Hans-Georg Gadamer in his 1983 text Praise of Theory. We talk about the importance of prejudice and tradition for self-understanding, ask whether the natural sciences or the human sciences have sole claim to truth, and praise the (qualified) freedom of theory from instrumental reason (continental philosophy even gets a positive shout-out!). The purpose of this mini-series is to assess the insights of hermeneutics fo...
2022-Oct-03 • 66 minutes
49 | Coming to Terms with Human Finitude w/ Prof. Martin Hägglund
In this episode we are joined by Martin Hägglund to discuss the existentialist's argument for what makes human life meaningful—and why democratic socialism is the logical conclusion to reach after having considered the matter carefully. We also dig into the limits of social democracy, the need for the state, and the revaluation of value that is yet to | @leftofphilFollow Martin: @martinhaegglund | http://martinhagglund.seReferences:Martin... Hägglund, This Life: Secular Life a...
2022-Sep-19 • 61 minutes
48 | Gillian Rose: Speculative Thinking and Post-Kantian Sociology with James Callahan
In this episode we are joined by James Callahan (aka Crane) to talk about Gillian Rose’s book Hegel Contra Sociology. We explore Rose’s critique of early twentieth-century sociology, which she argues was completely hampered by the limitations of its neo-Kantian framework. Looking to break out of this transcendental circle, Rose turns to Hegel and defends a highly original and sophisticated reading of his speculative political thinking, in order to develop a sociological analysis adequate for grasping and tr...
2022-Sep-06 • 61 minutes
47 | Guy Debord and the Society of the Spectacle
In today’s episode we talk about Guy Debord’s critique of life under modern capitalism by looking at his scathing and provocative The Society of the Spectacle. Is it true that all that was once lived is now mere representation? That the whole of society is mediated by an endless proliferation of passifying images? That the fullness of life has been replaced by its bloodless negation in survival? Because it sure feels like it! We discuss what exactly he means by spectacle, reflect on whether and how it’s pos...
2022-Aug-22 • 11 minutes
46 Teaser | What is Dialectics? Part V: Adorno's Negative Dialectics
In this patron-exclusive episode, we continue our series on the concept of dialectics by talking about Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. We reflect on what a non-closed dialectical system would look like, why Adorno is definitely not the defeatist he’s often caricatured as being, and what it means for us to hold onto utopian promises for a better world from within the administered nightmare of modern capitalism. Along the way we try to hone in on what’s special about Adorno’s negative dialectics, especially in ...
2022-Aug-08 • 69 minutes
45 | On Solidarity and Conflict with Nathan DuFord
In this episode we are joined by Nathan DuFord to discuss their new book Solidarity in Conflict: A Democratic Theory. We unpack why they believe solidarity ought to be theorized as a political concept rather than moral injunction. For DuFord, we risk missing that solidarity is what the oppressed do with one another and that the oppressed will have disagreements within their solidary groups if we undertheorize the political dimensions of solidarity. We go on to discuss the relationships between trust and con...
2022-Aug-01 • 61 minutes
44 | Karl Kautsky's Cooperative Commonwealth
In this episode we talk about the most important Marxist thinker during the time of the Second International, Karl Kautsky. We talk about his infamous claim that the breakdown of capitalism is historically inevitable, what he thinks socialist praxis should look like in a liberal democracy, and what the concentration of large-scale capital means for your small business. Plus at some point we realize that almost all anti-socialist arguments are actually just confused anti-capitalist ones, which we find irresi...
2022-Jul-26 • 61 minutes
43 | Transindividuality and Marxism with Jason Read
In this episode we talk with the wonderful Jason Read about his work on the concept of transindividuality and what it means for critical social theory, Marxist notions like alienation and reification, and traditional conceptions of freedom and equality. It’s bad news for anyone who thinks politics can be directly derived from ontology, but incredibly productive theoretically and practically if you're willing to think social relations as processes. Also Will admits he’s almost ready to confess his Spino...
2022-Jul-12 • 68 minutes
42 | Going Beyond the Pleasure Principle with Freud
In this episode we talk psychoanalytic theory and practice. With Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle as our touchstone, we get speculative about human desire, the death drive, and the relationship between psychoanalysis and political struggle. We discuss the problem of scaling up from individual psychology to collective organizations, the opacity of the subject, and some of the psychosocial pathologies peculiar to the United States here in the twenty-first century. We could all use a bit more transference...
2022-Jun-27 • 60 minutes
41 | James Boggs and the Problem of Rights under Capitalism
In this episode we discuss James Boggs’s 1963 The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook. We talk about Boggs’s materialist conception of rights as “what you make and what you take.” In Boggs we find a novel conception of rights that are grounded in social power. We delve into the dangers automation and structural unemployment present to rights to life and happiness while wondering if a “workless” society would truly be a better one. In the end, we extend a figleaf to egalitarian liberals...
2022-Jun-13 • 12 minutes
40 Teaser | What is Liberalism? Part I. John Locke's Second Treatise of Government
In this episode we kick off our new series called “What is Liberalism?” with private property, conquest, and a discussion about John Locke’s apologia for both. We appreciate the efforts of the left to civilize liberalism in the wake of its own civilizing efforts across the globe, but we ask whether it’s really possible to separate economic and political liberalism to make liberalism work for the left. Our experiences in DEI workshops suggest not, although many who are smarter than Locke have tried. The full...
2022-May-30 • 65 minutes
39 | Lukács: Social Totality and the Commodity Form
In this episode we discuss the work of György Lukács, focusing on the reification essay from his seminal 1923 book History and Class Consciousness. We talk about why it’s not great that the commodity form has penetrated every aspect of social life, why we need to retain the category of totality in spite of loud protests from postmodernists, and what’s special about the standpoint of the proletariat. Welcome to capitalism, folks: real contradictions and necessary illusions abound. But it’s not over yet! patr...
2022-May-16 • 60 minutes
38 | Liberal Democracy in Crisis: Carl Schmitt and the Present
In this episode, we discuss the infamous Nazi jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt, with particular focus on his 1923 book The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. We attempt to better understand the right-wing, Schmittian case against both liberal ‘parliamentarianism’ and ‘Marxist socialism’, while trying to discern his positive political vision. Doing so requires assessing his paradoxical claim that democracy and dictatorship are perfectly compatible, and that dictatorship is good, actually. We end...
2022-May-02 • 10 minutes
37 Teaser | What’s the ‘Structural’ in ‘Structural Injustice’?: Iris Marion Young and Political Philosophy
What do we mean when we call something a ‘structural injustice’? In this episode, we take up some of Iris Marion Young’s work and ask what makes the difference between interpersonal injustice and structural injustice. Along the way, we investigate concepts such as political responsibility, social connection, and the character of global injustice. As an extra special treat listeners will find out what is preventing Gil from being a revolutionary (the answer may surprise you)! The full episode is available on...
2022-Apr-20 • 67 minutes
36 | What is Utopia? Part II. Plato's Republic (with Owen Alldritt)
In this episode, we talk with Owen Alldritt about justice. We come to Plato’s defense against the Western philosophical canon, mostly in spite of ourselves, and insist on the True coinciding with the Good. What does this all have to do with utopia, you ask? As it turns out, Plato is a realist and he thinks we can know the Good in itself, organize our cities accordingly, and realize justice…or at least philosophers can. Good luck to everyone else! patreon to support | follow us @leftofphil References: The ...
2022-Apr-05 • 69 minutes
35 | Moral Luck and Pedagogy (with Aaron Rabinowitz)
In this episode, we talk with Aaron Rabinowitz of Embrace the Void and Philosophers in Space about the paradoxes of moral luck, the problematic nature of our everyday notions of responsibility, and what good pedagogy looks like when you’ve agreed – as you must – that spontaneous, volitional free will is merely an illusion. We do some Kantian maneuvering, form provisional alliances, and all things considered have as good a time as is possible given our total lack of freedom.References:Thomas Nagel, “Moral Lu...
2022-Mar-22 • 9 minutes
34 Teaser | What is Dialectics? Part IV: Dialectic of Enlightenment with Adorno and Horkheimer
In this episode we talk about Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, focusing on their notion of reason as abstractive domination and their understanding of the culture industry as a means of producing mass complicity with the machinations of capital. The good news is that we've got a much better sense of humor than either of them, so it's not as miserable as all that might sound. The bad news is we're not sure if they're wrong to be so pessimistic. We also drag a fair ...
2022-Mar-07 • 68 minutes
33 | (Un)Learning How to Do Politics with Hannah Arendt
In this episode we discuss what distinguishes politics from other aspects of human existence by looking at Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition and “Reflections on Little Rock.” We question why Arendt is so concerned with defending the distinction between politics, the social, and the private realm and what useful insights can be drawn from these distinctions when analyzing real human history. In addition, we touch on Arendt’s controversial relationship to black politics around integration or as she thought ...
2022-Feb-22 • 66 minutes
32 | What is Equality? Disagreeing with Jacques Rancière
In this episode we discuss the meaning of equality by delving into French political philosopher Jacques Rancière’s 1995 book, Disagreement. In a contentious conversation we unpack the core concepts of the book, including its expansive notion of the police and its highly restrictive definition of politics as foundationally egalitarian. Above all, we press Rancière (and each other!) on both the meaning and the political utility of equality as a presupposition or ‘axiom’ rather than a social goal. It’s a bange...
2022-Feb-07 • 62 minutes
31 | Raymond Geuss: Realism in Political Theory
In this episode we work through some of the ideas laid out in Part 1 of Raymond Geuss’ 2008 Philosophy and Real Politics. It’s a refreshingly clear-eyed argument for what he calls the realist approach in political philosophy, which tries to attend to the messiness of actually existing societies, the opaque and invested people who make them up, and the shifting, contradictory values they hold. We’re talking Hobbes meets Lenin meets Nietzsche here, folks. Leave your rational decision theory and normative idea...
2022-Jan-24 • 61 minutes
30 | What is Utopia? Part I. Thomas More: Critical Realism in a Time of Enclosure
In this episode, we kick off a new series on the concept of utopia by taking a look at the guy who invented the word, Thomas More. We discuss how his wonderfully satirical 1516 book Utopia was written in response to the enclosures happening in England, which forced masses of peasants into unemployment and misery and created the conditions for early capitalist agriculture. His fictional island nation of Utopia thrives without private property, but More’s real trick is how he reveals the wildly utopian and fa...
2022-Jan-10 • 66 minutes
29 | Sartre and the Question of Philosophy
In this episode, we read Jean-Paul Sartre's Search for a Method. We begin by working through Sartre’s puzzling claim that Marxism is this era’s one true philosophy and then branch out into broader questions concerning what it is we are trying to do when we philosophize and whether Sartre was right not to give up on capital-T “Truth.” Other topics include Sartre’s conception of freedom, the relationship of the individual to history, and the problems of dogmatic Marxism up to the present day. This one is...
2021-Dec-25 • 55 minutes
28 | A Very Special Holiday Episode: Learning How to Give with Jacques Derrida
Merry Christmas and happy holidays! In this surprise gift of an episode, we’re visited by the spectre of Jacques Derrida and his deconstruction of the gift. Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, he forces us to ask whether we have given enough, whether we know how to give without reciprocity, and why it is so hard to give in the first place. The gang reflects on the phenomenology of gift-giving and the insidious politics of philanthropy, and even takes shots at the big guy himself: Santa Claus. So sit back, gra...
2021-Dec-21 • 66 minutes
27 | Crisis and Utopian Consciousness
In this episode we get together to discuss a new article by our very own Will Paris! We talk about Will’s critical and materialist conception of consciousness, the role of awareness and normative expectations in processes of social transformation, and why utopia is involved in knowledge production. We talk Bloch, we talk Hayek: you know, the usuals. It’s a classic original crew set, recorded live on stream! | @leftofphilReferences:William Paris, “Crisis Consciousness, Utopian Con...
2021-Dec-03 • 69 minutes
26 | Wake Up and Choose Divine Violence: Walter Benjamin w/ Dr. Ashley Bohrer
In this episode we welcome Dr. Ashley Bohrer to discuss Walter Benjamin’s 1921 essay “Critique of Violence”. We talk about the relationship between violence and the law, reflect on the limits of institutional power for emancipatory projects, and get really real about the spiritual dimension of justice. Keep your messianism weak, | @leftofphilashleybohrer.comPedagogies for Peace podcast: ...
2021-Nov-19 • 62 minutes
25 | Reflections on Freedom and the Cold War w/ Dr. Lea Ypi
This episode dives behind the Iron Curtain into socialist Albania in discussion with Lea Ypi on her new memoir “Free.” The crew explores what has been gained and what has been lost in the transition to capitalism. Lea explains why some of the symmetry may surprise us and why Marxism is a philosophy of human | @leftofphilReferences:Lea Ypi, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History (Penguin Random House, 2021)Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist |
2021-Nov-05 • 24 minutes
24 Teaser | What's Left of Foucault?
In this episode, the crew takes on a beloved figure of the academic ‘left’: Michel Foucault. The discussion gravitates around Foucault’s work in the early 1970’s on the ‘punitive society’, power as civil war, and popular rebellion. This post-‘68 period of his life and work is often seen as his most politically ‘radical’, both because of his activist involvement in the Prisons Information Group (GIP) and because he directly engages with Marxist discourse and thought. Nevertheless, the conversation quickly tu...
2021-Oct-22 • 67 minutes
23 | How Does a Democracy Keep its Character? Lessons from the Black Radical Tradition w/ Prof. Melvin Rogers
In this episode, we welcome Professor Melvin Rogers of Brown University to discuss his forthcoming book The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought. We focus on the often elided importance of character in social struggle and transformation, the tension between optimism and pessimism in African American political thought, and the centrality of rhetoric and persuasion in this tradition. It is not to be missed! | @leftofphilReferen...
2021-Oct-08 • 69 minutes
22 | The Meaning of Disability (with Dr. Joel Michael Reynolds)
In this episode we are joined by Joel Michael Reynolds for a wide-ranging discussion about disability theory. We dig into the relationship between disability and white supremacy, the idea of politics as differential capacitation, genomics and medicalization, justice as equity, and more. Naturally we put full-bore social constructivism on blast. Leftists gotta be materialists, you know? | @leftofphilReferences:Joel Michael Reynolds, “The Meaning of Ability and Disability.” Journal...
2021-Aug-28 • 68 minutes
21 | What is Critical Theory Doing? w/ Dr. Prof. Robin Celikates
In this episode we are joined by Professor Robin Celikates to discuss the big “method” question in critical theory: What is it doing, and why? Since Marx, this tradition has had a special connection to emancipatory struggles, so we talk about how that works (or doesn’t) in relation to contemporary debates about civil disobedience and migration. | @leftofphilReferences:Robin Celikates, 2019. “Constituent Power Beyond Exceptionalism: Irregular migration, disobedience, and (re-)co...
2021-Aug-13 • 58 minutes
20 | David Walker and the Politics of Judgment
For this episode we discuss David Walker’s 1830 radical anti-slavery tract An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World and Melvin Rogers’s 2015 article “David Walker and the Political Power of the Appeal.” We explore Walker’s political philosophy of judgment and its relationship to normativity, solidarity, and reconstructing civic society. Walker offers an insightful critique of the insidious pathologies race introduces into Western political formations. We cover questions of universalism, the contentiou...
2021-Jul-31 • 72 minutes
19 | Machiavelli: Cunning, Fortune, and Republican Virtue
In this episode we talk through the work of one of the most infamous figures in the history of political thought, Niccolò Machiavelli. Looking both at the Prince and some passages from the Discourses, we ask ourselves what the Florentine can teach us about strategy, the need for vision and flexibility, and the virtues of leaders and citizens in a world of duplicity and chance. Is he a ruthless lover of cruelty, a clear-eyed political scientist, or a partisan defender of freedom as non-domination?
2021-Jul-16 • 74 minutes
18 | Spinoza: Necessity, Ethics, Joy
In this episode we finally get around to talking about Spinoza. It turns out normativity is kind of complicated when you think everything is strictly determined and there’s no such thing as contingency! We discuss the relationship between affect and power, the inherently social nature of knowledge, and why you should want joy for others as much as for yourself. Along the way we also manage to work in a needless and slanderous dig against Heidegger, just for good | @lefto...
2021-Jul-02 • 19 minutes
17 Teaser | What is Dialectics? Part III: What's the Deal with Marx, Anyway?
In this Patron exclusive episode, we move to the third part of our mini-series “What is Dialectics?” and take on the works of Karl Marx. The WLOP crew investigates what Marx took and rejected from Hegelian dialectics while defending why Marx remains deeply relevant in our contemporary moment. We cover the role of mystification under capitalism, Marx’s moral and political critique of value, and the future of Marxism in the context of ecological crisis. There’s even a mention of spectres for you Derrida fans ...
2021-Jun-18 • 67 minutes
16 | Erik Olin Wright: Utopia and Social Science
In this episode, we discuss Erik Olin Wright’s 2010 book Envisioning Real Utopias. We excavate the relationship between social scientific investigation and normative claims concerning how we ought to structure our society. We ask what a theory of social transformation ought to entail and figure out why we don’t live in the best of all possible worlds yet. So sit back and relax while we pour one out for a real one: Comrade Erik Olin | @leftofphilReferences:Erik Olin Wright...
2021-Jun-04 • 76 minutes
15 | What is Dialectics? Part II: We Need to Talk about Hegel
In this episode, we continue our series on dialectics by completely losing our minds talking about Hegel. We break through Kant’s critical prohibition on speculative metaphysics and grasp the in-itself as the movement of dialectical negativity. We realize the unity of opposites. We are seized by the necessity of the absolute Idea in history. It’s a banger, folks. In retrospect, it couldn’t have been any other | @leftofphilReferences:G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy o...
2021-May-22 • 63 minutes
14 | Thomas Hobbes Hates Your Book Club
In this episode, we go back to the seventeenth century to talk about Thomas Hobbes’ hugely influential political philosophy. Focusing mostly on De Cive, we dive into his hilariously bleak anthropology, his totalitarian absolutism, and his uncomfortable fit within the modern tradition of political liberalism. But things are a little more complicated than they first appear: maybe old Bishop Bramhall was right when he said that Hobbes’ ideas are ‘a rebel’s catechism’ | @leftofphilR...
2021-May-07 • 62 minutes
13 | What is Dialectics? Part I. The Crew Gets Kant-Pilled
In this episode, we start our series on dialectics with a conversation about Kant. If you’ve ever wondered what the hell this term means, then the WLOP crew is here for you. We talk about what human beings can know, what we can’t know but need to think, and introduce ourselves to the philosophy of | @leftofphil References:Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, ed. and trans. Paul Guyer and Allan Wood (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).Immanuel Kant, Critique o...
2021-Apr-23 • 8 minutes
12 Teaser | Gustav Landauer: Anarchism, Utopia, Community
In this episode, we explore the work of German anarchist Gustav Landauer. We work through the utility of utopia in political transformations and what is required to create richer communities and social life. In the end, we discover the one vibe we’re cool with: joy. Come on through for wild mysticism and learn what Meister Eckhart can do for you while in prison!The full episode is available on our Patreon | @leftofphilReferences:Gustav Landauer, “Anarchism and Socialism,” i...
2021-Apr-09 • 78 minutes
11 | Climate Politics and Global Justice (with Dr. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò)
In this episode, we are joined by Professor Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò (@OlufemiOTaiwo) (Georgetown University) to discuss his work on the politics surrounding climate change and generative frameworks for global justice. In this wide-ranging discussion we address the urgency of climate politics for the African continent, what it means to connect the local to the global, and how we can move towards richer forms of collaborative security. We also offer a theory of “vibes” in politics and
2021-Mar-28 • 75 minutes
10 | Donna Haraway: Socialist Cyborg Affinities
In this episode, we discuss Donna Haraway’s distinctive socialist cyberfeminism. We talk through the virtues and vices of her version of postmodern feminism and leftism, the ambivalent character of scientific knowledge production and new technologies, and the strange material powers of metaphor. Ask yourself: would you rather be a cyborg or a goddess? | @leftofphilReferences:Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Cent...
2021-Mar-12 • 61 minutes
9 | C.L.R. James: Leadership, Organization, Mass Politics (with Dr. William Clare Roberts)
Episode 9 explores the antinomies of autonomy and self-emancipation in the thought of C.L.R. James. Dr. William Clare Roberts joins us to discuss James’ legacy and how it fits into his book project on the history of “history from below.” Please be advised that a side-effect of this episode may be republicanism. (No, you Yanks, not the GOP. It’s the Black Jacobins, get it?)References:CLR James, The Black Jacobins, (New York: Vintage Books, 1989).CLR James, World Revolution 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the...
2021-Feb-26 • 67 minutes
8 | (Neo)colonialism and Anticolonialism
In episode 8, we look to the writings of Aimé Césaire to guide a conversation about colonialism, neocolonialism, and anti-colonial thought and struggle. Focusing especially on his 1950 Discourse on Colonialism and his 1956 letter to Maurice Thorez—in which he explains his resignation from French Communist Party—we discuss the subjective and objective ‘boomerang effects’ of colonialism on colonizing countries, the tensions between particularism and universalism in putatively global left politics, the relatio...
2021-Feb-12 • 59 minutes
7 | Why Does Class Matter?
Episode 7 dives into class theory as we discuss why it’s important to make a normative case for class politics, misconceptions about who the working class is, and why the labor market dominates. We also ruminate on why workers don’t always organize and why solidarity is a counterculture. Plot twist: Lillian accuses everyone except herself of class reductionism. Lillian Cicerchia, "Why Does Class Matter?", Social Theory and Practice 47:4 (2021):
2021-Jan-29 • 72 minutes
6 | What's Left of Positivism (with Dr. Liam Kofi Bright)
In this episode, we heal the divide between analytic and continental philosophy by finally giving logical positivism its due. Dr. Liam Kofi Bright (London School of Economics, @lastpositivist) explains the socialist roots of some of the positivists, details their views on the role of science and knowledge in projects of social betterment, and defends the political importance of clarity. | @leftofphilReferences:Hans Hahn, Otto Neurath, and Rudolf Carnap, “The Scientific Conceptio...
2021-Jan-15 • 14 minutes
5 Teaser | Beauvoir: Existentialism and Liberation
Full episode on the Patreon: this episode, we talk about Simone de Beauvoir's masterful book The Ethics of Ambiguity. We spend some time with her typology of inadequate ethical positions, focusing on the subhuman, the serious person, and the nihilist, and discuss what it means to say that freedom is only possible as a liberatory movement. Oh and we make fun of the abstract negation of revolt, the absolute value of the Target corporation, and Ayn Rand's 'epistemo...
2021-Jan-01 • 59 minutes
4 | Security, Supreme Concept of Bourgeois Society?
In our fourth episode we talk about security, digging into Mark Neocleous' argument, following Marx, that security rather than liberty is 'the supreme concept of bourgeois society'. But we also ask the thorny question of how the left can speak to everyone's desire to feel safe while critically highlighting the racialized violence and ruling-class utility of existing security regimes. It's, uh, more fun than that probably | @leftofphilReferences:Ma...
2020-Dec-18 • 71 minutes
3 | Laclau and Mouffe, or How we learned to hate class and love Derrida
In our third episode, we talk about Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, the landmark text of post-Marxism. Both serious arguments and slam dunks | @leftofphilReferences:Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. Second Edition (New York: Verso, 2001)Karl Marx, “Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.” In Selected Writings. Ed. Lawrence H. Simon. (Indiana...
2020-Dec-18 • 76 minutes
2 | Stuart Hall: What are the politics of culture?
In this episode we discuss the work of cultural theorist Stuart Hall and his politics of culture. We focus on his relationship to Althusser and Gramsci with a detour through contemporary Black politics in the United | @leftofphilReferences:Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies 1983: A Theoretical History. Edited by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Lawrence Grossberg (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016)Stuart Hall, “Political Commitment, 1966.” In Selected Political Writings: The Great M...
2020-Dec-18 • 62 minutes
1 | Althusser: Marxism and Philosophy
In our inaugural episode, we talk about Louis Althusser’s pathbreaking work on philosophy and Marxism from the 1960s. Targets of reckless slander include Sartre and post-structuralist theories of | @leftofphilReferences:Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Translated by Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001)Louis Althusser, Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists. Translated by Ben Brewster, James H. Kavanagh, Thomas E. ...