Philosophy & Other Big Ideas

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Christopher Lydon

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Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowada...Show More

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Karl Ove Knausgaard on Art and Loneliness

30:34 | Oct 3rd, 2017

Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a 6-volume selfie that a lot of us can’t stop reading. My Struggle he called it, looking inward and talking to himself for thousands of pages. Autumn, his new book, is ...

Let Us Now Praise John Ashbery

49:44 | Sep 8th, 2017

John Ashbery seemed to lower, not raise, his voice when he spoke his poems. “Hammer and tongs, as it were, tended to drive ideas and meanings away,” he thought.  “They only come back in when ...

Why We’re Addicted to Facebook

42:14 | Mar 4th

Could it possibly be that Stanford’s great humanist Robert Pogue Harrison invented René Girard out of sheer longing for an omni-theorist of our interlocking social and spiritual trials? Harrison presented Girard in a striking piece ...

Intelligent Redesign?

50:02 | Mar 1st

A conversation with George Church and Antonio Regalado about gene editing and the future of biotech. Ready or not, we are at the gateway into CRISPR world and CRISPR think: CRISPR the acronym for biology’s ...

Second Guessing the Oscars

44:32 | Feb 22nd

A conversation about the movies with A. S. Hamrah, Beth Gilligan, Katherine Irving. We’ve reached that odd ritual of cultural reckoning. Between the Super Bowl and Opening Day of the national pastime, Hollywood holds up ...

Gandhi and “The Years That Changed the World”

39:09 | Feb 14th

Mahatma Gandhi led the liberation of India from British rule in the first half of the 20th Century, by massive and peaceful resistance. He is said to be out of political fashion in India these ...

A Coup in Caracas

50:12 | Feb 8th

A conversation on the crisis in Venezuela with Alejandro Velasco, Jeff Sachs, Greg Grandin, and Leo Blanco. The ruin of Venezuela and the world’s answer to it mark the climax of an epic, late in ...

All in Favor…

50:13 | Feb 1st

A conversation about Astra Taylor’s new documentary What Is Democracy? with Astra Taylor, David Runciman, and Kali Akuno. We used to know what we liked about that word ‘democracy,’ and we were ready to fight for ...

RIP: Russell Baker

0:00 | Jan 28th

We loved that man, on top of worshipping his cool, insightful, hilarious Times column. Newspaper guys didn’t say this sort of thing, but Russ Baker made your heart flutter. Lunch or even a few words with the ... The post RIP: Russell Baker appeared ...Show More

Under Surveillance: Capitalism in the Digital Age

49:57 | Jan 25th

Yes, Virginia, the world did change direction in the late summer of 2001, and it’s been changing us ever since. 9/11 had everything to do it, but it was also the panicky season of the ...

Andre Dubus’s Carny World

26:53 | Jan 19th

A conversation with Andre Dubus III about his new novel, Gone So Long.  An old-fashioned sort of writer from this part of the world, and a writer we love for his swerves and surprises, Andre Dubus ...

Is the Green New Deal For Real?

50:12 | Jan 11th

A conversation about the “Green New Deal” with Bill McKibben, Naomi Oreskes, and Daniel Schrag. The mission, as it turned out, was to transform the American economy and save the country, no less, over twelve years. ...

The New Normal

50:09 | Jan 4th

A conversation with Stephen Walt and Fintan O’Toole on the state of the world at the beginning of 2019. At the start of a new year, count the new normals in a changed world: new ...

Lenny at 100

49:57 | Dec 21st, 2018

A tribute to Leonard Bernstein with Nigel Simeone, Jamie Bernstein, and Augusta Read Thomas. Leonard Bernstein, the multi-musician, did it all in his lifetime. At his 100th anniversary this year, the only question people still ...

The Tower and the Square

50:13 | Dec 14th, 2018

A conversation about Brexit, yellow vests, and the state of the European Union with Arthur Goldhammer, Vanessa Bee, Julian Bourg, and Alan Rusbridger. A nasty winter of discontent is in the air, blowing around old ...

Tech Tyranny

50:09 | Dec 7th, 2018

You know you’re embedded in the Digital Age when you’re typing your anxieties into the Woebot app to get free, anonymous CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). It’s Digital Age anxiety we’re all cringing at in the ...

A Splice of Life

50:02 | Nov 30th, 2018

“The genie is out of the bottle,” says George Church, and he should know. Dr. Church at Harvard Medical School has been a respected keeper of the keys to the miracle, or monster, that is ...

Seeing America with Frederick Wiseman

50:10 | Nov 16th, 2018

A conversation with Frederick Wiseman on his new film, Monrovia, Indiana, and a lifetime of observing. We’re way back home in Monrovia, Indiana, in Frederick Wiseman’s deep cinematic dive into Red State America. This is corn-and-hog, ...

Midterm Scorecard

50:09 | Nov 9th, 2018

A conversation with David Bromwich, Jill Lepore, David Bosworth, Briahna Gray, and Mark Blyth. The political armies, red and blue, both won tough battles at the midterm. What plain people got, at a minimum, was ...

Whitey, We Hardly Knew Ye

49:56 | Nov 1st, 2018

A conversation with Howie Carr, David Boeri, and Richard Marinick. Jimmy Bulger, known as Whitey, was a nasty curse on the old Irish urban village of South Boston. At the same time, he was the ...

Trouble in the House of Saud

50:12 | Oct 26th, 2018

A conversation with Stephen Kinzer, Sarah Leah Whitson, Steve Simon, Chas Freeman, and Shireen Al-Adeimi. Speaking of Saudi Arabia, in the ghastly light of Jamal Kashoggi’s dismemberment: what more do we care to know, about ...

Behind the “Leonine Gaze” of Frederick Douglass

49:58 | Oct 18th, 2018

Historian David Blight on his new biography of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, scarred and tormented seeing men made slaves, set the course of his life to show how a slave became a man. In the ...

Hothouse Earth

50:13 | Oct 12th, 2018

A conversation with Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, environmental policy expert Adil Najam, and social and political theorist Ajay Singh Chaudhary. We’re closer than we knew to falling off the cliff into climate hell – not ...

Farewell Tour

50:11 | Oct 4th, 2018

TDS is the acronym. Trump Derangement Syndrome is the full name: a distaste for Donald Trump so severe that sufferers abandon all logic and reason, all sense of proportion. But what if the breakdown they ...

A Less Perfect Union

49:53 | Sep 28th, 2018

“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare’s phrase from “The Tempest,” is carved in stone in front of the National Archive in Washington. Ronald Reagan liked to say that what it means about America is “you ain’t ...

Original Sin

50:12 | Sep 21st, 2018

The Roman Catholic Church is staring transfixed at a cascading scandal of crime and non-punishment. Sex crimes by priests against children are turning up now in far corners of the world, and a pattern of ...

Game, Set, Match!

50:05 | Sep 14th, 2018

It’s only a game, we used to say, but this season, between the US Open in tennis and pro-football’s opening games, our wide world of sports is an arena for every kind of cultural politics ...

A New Labor Movement

49:59 | Sep 7th, 2018

It’s Labor Day week 2018, and “The American Worker” doesn’t fit any single poster shot. Is it the Uber driver – working flex time in the ‘gig’ economy, for a magic dispatcher of taxis around ...

The Democratic Divide

50:13 | Aug 24th, 2018

At a madcap mid-point in the Age of Trump, it is the season suddenly of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the Democratic party. A.O.C. time, for the bold young waitress and straight-ahead socialist who toppled the ...

Black Film, White Voice

50:18 | Aug 16th, 2018

A new wave of black arts has surfaced in the mainstream of American popular culture. It’s not your standard entertainment, and not “art for art’s sake” either. On big screens and tiny ones, in music ...

V. S. Naipaul’s ‘Gloomy Clarity’ about Africa, and Himself (rebroadcast)

0:00 | Aug 12th, 2018

This interview with V.S. Naipaul was released October 25, 2010. We are re-posting the podcast on the occasion of the author’s death Saturday. V. S. Naipaul, in the winter of his long writing life, doesn’t ...

The Soviet Symphonist

50:17 | Aug 9th, 2018

The Shostakovich story — man and music in the apocalypse of world war and Cold War — seems to get more frightfully irresistible with every remembrance, every new CD in the Boston Symphony’s Grammy winning ...

Bullsh*t Jobs in Boomtime America

50:00 | Jul 26th, 2018

The jobs are back.  It’s the work that feels fishy: so much of it paid but pointless; safe and even secure, but often un-satisfying if you were looking for hands-on and heart-felt work that could ...

The Siberian Candidate

50:12 | Jul 20th, 2018

Calling on the spies we know best – all of them fictional – to explain the Helsinki summit: If it was spy-craft in plain sight, what would James Bond or Jason Bourne have seen that we ...

The Grenfell Tragedy

50:14 | Jul 13th, 2018

Grenfell Tower was that giant pillar of public housing on the West side of London that went up in flames a year ago.  Suddenly it was a smoky chemical torch in the night, fueled by ...

Bill Banfield’s Griot Songs

50:12 | Jul 6th, 2018

Your friends and other experts will tell you the songs and sounds that are new and hot. What the music makers are happier telling you is: what’s old, what abides, what is true, what connects ...

Molly Crabapple’s Cosmopolitan Colors

16:52 | Jun 29th, 2018

Listen fast, podcast people, because the beloved artist-satirist-global muckraker Molly Crabapple talks fast, the same way she draws and paints a sort of carnival of conflict out there: in Syria, in storm-damaged Puerto Rico, in ...

Our Borderline Disorder

0:00 | Jun 29th, 2018

The shock of migrant kids-in-cages on our border with Mexico is surfacing tough questions if you’re willing to look back at our history and ahead to an emerging world disorder. The issues run deep: why ... The post Our Borderline Disorder appeared f...Show More

Two Guys Walk Into a Summit in Singapore

49:54 | Jun 15th, 2018

From “fire and fury” to a “terrific relationship” in less than a year sound like a happy turn in the Trump-Kim dance around nukes and North Korea. Better news coming is implied in the Singapore ...

The Original Kitchen Connection (June 29, 2000)

50:30 | Jun 8th, 2018

Anthony Bourdain introduced us almost 20 years ago to Systeme D, the crisis procedures in the best kitchens that get the chef out of a jam.  I was eager to interview him not least because ...

The Reporter’s Reporter

49:58 | Jun 7th, 2018

Seymour Hersh, known as Sy, made a brilliant career, at his best, of exposing Official US, at its worst: the Army massacre at My Lai, in Vietnam. The sadistic prison management at Abu Ghraib in ...

Studs Terkel’s Feeling Tone

49:56 | Jun 1st, 2018

The Studs Terkel edge on the radio was, first of all, picking guests who would sound more interesting 50, 60 years later: Mahalia Jackson, Bucky Fuller, Toni Morrison, Bertrand Russell. Simone de Beauvoir on her ...

The Split Screen View in Jerusalem and Gaza

49:53 | May 18th, 2018

One split screen wasn’t really enough for the asymmetries we’re looking at now, but there it was: Ivanka unveiling the Trump embassy plaque in Jerusalem, and 40 miles away, the massacre at Gaza, Israeli soldiers ...

Trump Goes Rogue In Iran

49:50 | May 11th, 2018

Dropping out of the Iran nuclear deal has the feel of dropping into the John Bolton phase of the Trump era.  Trump in Full. Trump Extra. The theme is No More Mr. Nice Guy, or ...

Lisa Halliday’s ‘Asymmetry’

29:55 | May 8th, 2018

This is an unlocked, bonus segment of Open Source. You can hear weekly conversations and extended interviews like this one by subscribing and supporting our work on Patreon. The writer Zadie Smith first clued us ...

Marx at 200

49:56 | May 4th, 2018

A specter is haunting human affairs these days: it’s the thought that Karl Marx (on his 200th birthday this week) may have been more right than wrong about rich-get-richer bourgeois economics.  He may have been ...

The Secret Life of Trees

49:46 | Apr 27th, 2018

Henry David Thoreau founded our literature of trees, glorying in the Eastern White Pine as the “emblem of my life,” to stand for “the West, the wild.” His friend Emerson, one step closer, felt an ...

The Trump Doctrine in the Middle East

49:57 | Apr 20th, 2018

What President Trump said he wanted was to get US firepower out of Syria. “Let the other people take care of it now,” in his words. What he settled for with his own generals was ...

Barbara Ehrenreich on the Cult of Wellness

22:35 | Apr 17th, 2018

This is an unlocked, bonus segment of Open Source. You can hear weekly conversations and extended interviews like this one by subscribing and supporting our work on Patreon. In her new book, Natural Causes: An ...

Facebook & the Reign of Surveillance Capitalism

49:57 | Apr 13th, 2018

Three questions they didn’t get Mark Zuckerberg to consider. For openers: that leak of 87 million identities to Cambridge Analytica: was it a bug in the system, or a feature of it?  Facebook’s core business ...

The Teachers’ Revolt

49:57 | Apr 5th, 2018

There’s a quick, strange turn in our weather and it’s not just springtime. Public school classrooms, oddly enough, are the source of the storm winds: first the take-charge teenagers of the Parkland generation, ready to ...

Van Morrison’s Cosmic Accident

49:57 | Mar 29th, 2018

In the annals of rock music albums, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is one of a kind. In an earthy medium, it’s a masterpiece of abstraction.  Indecipherable. Irresistible. Influential. Accidental, it seemed, from the first licks ...

Reviving the King

49:58 | Mar 16th, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. comes to seem larger in his absence these last 50 years, himself a cosmos, in Walt Whitman speak, containing multitudes—and not contradictions so much as multiples. He was a midnight-oil Ph.D. ...

Books Not Bars

49:51 | Mar 9th, 2018

The case for prison education is alive again, in the land of mass incarceration, the case for reimagining prisons as colleges and universities of life. Malcolm X in his Autobiography gave the classic example: when ...

The World of Wakanda

49:58 | Mar 2nd, 2018

Black Panther, the movie, is heading toward $1-billion at the box office on just its third weekend. Already it seems that commercial success is likely not what Black Panther will be remembered for. It is ...

Call Me André Aciman

50:04 | Feb 23rd, 2018

“Call me by your name,” the lovers say, “and I’ll call you by mine.” In the movie running strong for Oscar honors, the breathless word play is all about self-discovery in mad love for the ...

The Struggle for Syria’s Future

49:32 | Feb 16th, 2018

The Syrian war is not over, meaning the war of the Assad regime to crush large swaths of its population. Syria, the proxy war of great powers and close neighbors, may in fact be getting ...

The Algorithmic Age

49:56 | Feb 9th, 2018

Behold the Almighty Algorithm, a snippet of computer code coming to stand for a Higher Authority in our secular age, a sort of god. Algorithms are provoking a backlash, too, against the very idea of ...

The State of Disunion

49:58 | Feb 2nd, 2018

Despite what the president might say—the state of the union is: “divided,” “mixed,” “fractured,” and maybe “headed towards oblivion.”  These were some of the reports we heard from the citizens of Greater Boston this week, ...

The Fog of Vietnam

50:34 | Jan 26th, 2018

We’re beginning our series of 50th anniversary programs this week with one of the great shocks of 1968: the Tet Offensive. When the Vietnamese insurrection broke all over the map in late January, the CBS ...

Gimme Shelter

49:56 | Jan 19th, 2018

In cities across the country, working and middle-class Americans are struggling to keep their homes, pay their rent, and fight off eviction and foreclosure. Somerville, Massachusetts has an acute case of a national dilemma—call it ...

An Inconsistent Truth

50:02 | Jan 12th, 2018

The election of Donald Trump supposedly ushered in a new era of “fake news” and “post-truth” politics. Democracy would die in darkness, we were told, unless we renewed our subscriptions to the traditional organs of ...

Mark Blyth’s State of the Union

49:55 | Jan 5th, 2018

The people’s economist Mark Blyth is a perpetual fan favorite for Open Source listeners. The Brown University professor, who never left behind his working-class Scottish roots, brings a vernacular wisdom and wit to his deep ...

Billy Bragg’s Guide to the Music of Dissent (rebroadcast)

50:25 | Dec 29th, 2017

We’re ringing in the new year with a rerun of our conversation with Billy Bragg, a troubadour for British radicalism for more than thirty years as well as a democratic guitar-playing socialist with a steadfast ...

American Socrates: The Life and Mind of Noam Chomsky (rebroadcast)

50:23 | Dec 21st, 2017

Noam Chomsky for 50 years has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting … not the city-square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger. ...

The Doomsday Machine in 2017

50:24 | Dec 15th, 2017

Nukes are on people’s nerves again, for good reason.  Our tremors, though, could be a symptom of sanity.  What do you mean: fire and fury, the incineration of nations, on one man’s decision? What they ...

Unmasking Misogyny

50:25 | Dec 8th, 2017

The news in our scandal-sick USA is that a woman can complain of sexual oppression with some assurance that she will be heard. Toxic masculinity is now a firing offense, for a change. The women saying “no” ...

The Afterlife of Otis Redding

50:24 | Nov 30th, 2017

Otis Redding’s five magnificent years in showbiz transformed the sound of soul music. His grainy, growling, and “squawking” voice kept the music rooted in the older traditions of the black church and black life in America. Yet ...

The Coming Crisis in Opioid Nation

50:15 | Nov 23rd, 2017

This Thanksgiving, we’re replaying our episode on the issue of opioids. Their epidemic running rampant has a 30-year back story and a grisly punch-line for 2017: drug deaths this year alone are heading toward the US ...

The Future of Food

52:24 | Nov 17th, 2017

It’s Thanksgiving season again, and the double shadow on our great American food holiday is feast and famine, both. A bounteous industrial food system is wasting the land and leaving a billion of us humans ...

Democracy After Facebook

50:55 | Nov 10th, 2017

It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s world, and we are just scrolling through it: 2 billion of us now, a quarter of all humanity. We’re the unpaid production staff of the fourth most valuable company in Silicon Valley, ...

Trump Goes to China

49:56 | Nov 3rd, 2017

President Trump is on tour in Asia this weekend: relieved maybe to be “getting out of Dodge” as his campaign team is getting indicted in D.C.  But it’s awkward, and unprecedented over there, too, that our ...

The Scramble for Amazon

49:55 | Oct 27th, 2017

Amazon, the online everything store with the arrow-headed smile in its logo, is ready to build its second headquarters (outside Seattle this time) in a post-industrial urban dreamscape.  And there’s barely an American city out ...

Intelligence By Design

49:56 | Oct 20th, 2017

The “intelligence explosion” foretold 50 years ago, could be here any minute. Artificial intelligence has now survived the “AI winter” — and is back in public conversation. It’s not just a Silicon Valley buzzword or a subject ...

Thelonious Monk at 100

49:59 | Oct 12th, 2017

At Thelonious Monk’s hundredth birthday, it’s our ears that have changed, not his sound.  Instead of odd angles and eccentricity we hear orchids in music, various and beautiful.  The truth of the man’s life is ...

Adapting to Disaster

49:53 | Oct 6th, 2017

An eerie suspense hangs over this Post-Puerto Rico moment.  Seas rising, spirits falling.  Awareness dawning, self-destruction by carbon, full-steaming ahead.  This week, we’re staring down climate dystopias with a motley crew of imaginative thinkers...Show More

Unnatural Disaster

49:56 | Sep 29th, 2017

Puerto Rico, a territory of three-and-a-half million US citizens, is unplugged, de-sheltered and desperate for months to come. This tiny little island in the Caribbean, with more people than the Dakotas, Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont ...

Rethinking Schools in the DeVos Era

49:52 | Sep 22nd, 2017

Betsy Devos’s “Rethinking School” tour can feel like a mission to dismantle the whole system, public schools first. Choice, charters and change are DeVos’s keynotes, along with a call for more and more crushing competition. ...

Claire Messud: Best Friends…For Now

18:24 | Sep 20th, 2017

Claire Messud is a novelist of social nuance, especially concerning the crushable inner lives of girls. You could say her new book The Burning Girl, is a suburban Boston version of Elena Ferrante’s Linu and Lena ...

Mutually Assured Madness

49:57 | Sep 15th, 2017

At the brink of who knows what with North Korea, we seem to be back on the scary ledge as in the old Cold War cartoon: enemy rock-climbers hanging off a cliff by the same ...

Amiri Baraka: Ennobled by Coltrane

19:24 | Aug 31st, 2017

Amiri Baraka‘s death prompts me to repost a conversation we had about the music of John Coltrane, which inspired Baraka and ennobled the ambitions of his Black Arts movement. “Trane was our flag,” Baraka remembered ...

Akhil Sharma’s Life of Adventure and Delight

29:27 | Aug 23rd, 2017

Akhil Sharma is a magician with language, on the page and in what feels for me anyway like instantly intimate conversation. He walks into my living room and immediately he’s teaching me something about myself. ...

The Plague of Fascism in America

0:00 | Aug 18th, 2017

It’s plague time in America. We’ve reacquainted ourselves with the wannabe centurions of white supremacy: their faces, their weapons, their torches. We have a new notion of what homegrown American fascism could look like in the ... The post The Plag...Show More

Harder, Better, Faster, CRISPR

49:55 | Aug 10th, 2017

The dawn of a new age flashed across the news this summer – dateline Oregon: scientists from the US, China and South Korea together had tweaked the genes of a living human embryo to correct ...

This is Your Brain on Trump

49:56 | Aug 4th, 2017

If you can believe your eyes, and ears, your screens, your Twitter feed, this is your mind, your country, our very public American life, “on Trump.”  There is no following this story, this confounding condition, this ...

Billy Bragg’s Guide to the Music of Dissent

49:57 | Jul 27th, 2017

Billy Bragg has been the premier troubadour for British radicalism for more than thirty years: a democratic socialist with a guitar and a steadfast commitment to fighting fascism, racism, and homophobia.He was the voice of the ...

The Coming Crisis in Opioid Nation

49:45 | Jul 20th, 2017

The opioid epidemic running rampant this summer has a 30-year back story and a grisly punch-line for 2017: drug deaths this year alone are heading toward the US death toll in Vietnam over ten years. ...

The Concord Circle & the Birth of American Philosophy

50:03 | Jul 14th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau on his 200th birthday has invited us back to his woodsy, watery old town of Concord, Massachusetts where crystalline American prose was born and grew up.  “The biggest little place in America,” ...

Walden & the Natural World of Transcendentalism

51:16 | Jul 7th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau, our specimen of American genius in nature, wrote famously short, and long.  “Simplify,” in a one-word sentence of good advice.  But then 2-million words on 7-thousand pages in his quotable lifetime journal. ...

A Wild & Disobedient Life

49:54 | Jun 30th, 2017

Henry David Thoreau, on his 200th birthday, is an American immortal who got there the hard way – against the grain of his town and his times.  By now he’s the heroic non-conformist who modeled ...

Philip Roth

49:58 | Jun 21st, 2017

This is an archive broadcast from May 12, 2006.Philip Roth [David Miller] This Memorial Day weekend we’re talking with Philip Roth about everything. It’s a free-range conversation that gets us beyond the books and into ...

Something’s Happening Here

49:49 | Jun 16th, 2017

In the first summer of Trump, 2017, there’s something happening and it feels bigger than the Comey hearings, even Russia-gate. Who knew that a British election with an inconclusive photo finish could re-channel the anger ...

The Chomsky Effect With Robert Barsky

18:28 | Jun 8th, 2017

Noam Chomsky had two giant careers: one in the science of language, another in the rough and tumble of anti-war politics, beckoning the question is it one Chomsky or two? In our two weeks of interviewing, ...

American Socrates: The Life and Mind of Noam Chomsky

49:55 | Jun 2nd, 2017

Noam Chomsky for 50 years has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting … not the city-square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger.The ...

Return of the Prophet: Baldwin in the 21st Century

52:05 | May 26th, 2017

James Baldwin was the prophetic voice of an era that isn’t over. Fifty years ago, he was a young, bug-eyed man from Harlem who wrote, in essays and novels, his own version of the civil-rights movement. Now his words ...

Lessons from Nixonland

49:50 | May 19th, 2017

Welcome back to Nixonland: After four decades, the Oval Office is once again the seat of empire, occupied by a paranoid pilot hellbent on an unremittingly personal fight, and no holds are barred. Between US Presidents ...

JFK Turns 100

50:30 | May 12th, 2017

In John F. Kennedy’s hundredth birthday spring, we’re looking again at the family portrait we all know, by the painter Jamie Wyeth.His canvas summoned the late president as a ruddy sort of ghost, face aglow against deep brown ...

The ‘Pivot to Asia’ Continued

49:54 | May 5th, 2017

What did we learn in Vietnam?

Ian Johnson and the Souls of China

24:37 | May 3rd, 2017

Ian Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize covering China for the Wall Street Journal–mostly economics–but then discovered what felt like a bigger story: a full-blown spiritual crisis inside a frenzied money culture.  In Chinese villages and ...

Building the People’s Party

49:51 | Apr 28th, 2017

100 days of Donald Trump in the White House, 100 days of Democrats in the wilderness, 100 dumbfounded days of dismay at the New York Times, 100 days for a lot of white America to ...

Robert Lowell and the Poetry of a Suffering Mind

49:55 | Apr 21st, 2017

Robert Lowell was the last of his kind: a New England aristocrat of Olympian thunder and civic weight, dead-set from boyhood on artistic greatness, “the pure air of the mountain peak,” he said.  All the ...

An American Sickness

49:54 | Apr 14th, 2017

With Barack out of the White House, Obamacare now looks something like a 7-year-old orphan: the unwanted child of yesterday’s Washington; a needy patchwork mega law with holes in its coverage.  Strange part is that Obamacare ...

American (De)generations

49:47 | Apr 7th, 2017

Is American history a cyclical thing; a series of concentric circles endlessly repeating? Are its contours defined by temporary revivals of old hopes and old fears, inevitably renewed and repeated every 80 years or so? Or ...

The Russian Riddle

46:30 | Mar 31st, 2017

"Conspiracy thinking is our response to the unimaginable."

A Survivor’s Guide to Tyranny

27:51 | Mar 28th, 2017

Yale historian Timothy Snyder has 20 pills he wants us to take, and keep taking, perhaps to save our country. The stark premise that he laid out for us a month ago is that the ...

The American Experiment

49:54 | Mar 24th, 2017

We’re looking for big answers from big thinkers this week, in the first episode of our series on the American Condition.Pick one: the American Experiment (A) has run its course, (B) is catching its breath ...

Mohsin Hamid and the ‘Unwritten Constitution’

25:30 | Mar 21st, 2017

The Pakistani fictionist Mohsin Hamid is acutely expert on our American hang-ups about others who look something like him. His new novel, Exit West, is a very modern sort of love story about a thoughtful ...

Welcome to Our Neoliberal World

49:54 | Mar 17th, 2017

In recent weeks, our comments section has been filled with request to define a term we use constantly on this show: neoliberalism. For people who like buzzwords parsed and spelled out, this hour’s for you.There ...

American Vertigo

49:51 | Mar 10th, 2017

It wasn’t a war of ideas that produced Donald Trump, but his election surprise has produced a war of ideas to define Trumpism. In our program, the battle will be waged by ambitious, 20-somethings hungry ...

‘Deportation Nation’

49:57 | Mar 3rd, 2017

The ICE age: ICE for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal agents that will swoop down if they think your citizenship is irregular. Suspense, surprise, and a certain arbitrary striking power are essentials in the ...

George Saunders in the Afterlife

31:39 | Feb 28th, 2017

The story master George Saunders is widely revered as the nicest guy in the writing game, but it’s sweeter and deeper than that. I met him in the Boston Public Library the other day to gab about ...

The Fog of Trump

50:42 | Feb 17th, 2017

Should Donald Trump have spelled it out that what he really had in mind for Washington was regime-change?  The darkest truth about the squalling Trump administration is that nobody knows what’s happening.  Old-time news guy ...

Going Nativist

50:06 | Feb 10th, 2017

The battle over the travel ban echoes our history from the founding, slicing deep into the heart of American sympathies: Are refugees and migrants coming ashore to be seen as humble ‘guests of the nation?’ or ...

Stephen Kinzer: America’s Empire State of Mind

35:02 | Feb 7th, 2017

Why are we everywhere in the world, so often with guns drawn? The provocative reporter Stephen Kinzer has covered a number of our “regime-change” interventions in the world, from Guatemala to the Middle East. And ...

The Great Trump Debate: Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader

49:54 | Feb 3rd, 2017

On Super Bowl weekend, we’ve lined up a couple of hall of fame political players who run outside Establishment lines to help us watch the game that’s unfolding so far in the Trump White House.  Pat ...

Just Say No!

49:43 | Jan 26th, 2017

Millions of people marched over the weekend, showing the outlines of a global, feminist, anti-racist, anti-Trump resistance… maybe. The question on our minds this week is whether the protesters can sustain and direct their dissent to create real ...

The Obama Years

49:52 | Jan 20th, 2017

What the “Yes I Can” president wanted most of all was to bring together a robust democracy in spirit if not every line of substance. What he ran into was a rockslide of revolt and ...

Silvio Berlusconi: The Godfather of Trumpismo

49:56 | Jan 13th, 2017

According to Henry Kissinger, “Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen.” Don’t tell that to the Italians. The parallels between Donald Trump and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi are as striking as ...

Good News for Bad Times: Gospel Music from Boston

49:57 | Jan 5th, 2017

In transition time, pre-inauguration, was there ever a clearer cue for Gospel music?  “Good news for bad times,” it’s been called. Sanctified music for a broken world. While Michele Obama’s hope is challenged, the giants ...

Stephen Burt’s World of Poetry

0:00 | Dec 29th, 2016

Resolved in this New Year: read, and listen closely, to more poetry.This week, we’re starting with one of our favorite local poets, Stephen (or Steph) Burt.Burt, beyond his formal role as professor of English at ...

Beethoven at the Piano

51:15 | Dec 21st, 2016

This show originally aired December 2014.We’re getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things: As volcanic was the man’s ...

Post-Democracy in America

49:54 | Dec 16th, 2016

"Donald Trump is a post-democratic leader. The liberal democratic model—of which Obama was the last president—is completely dead."

Bob Dylan, The Poet

49:56 | Dec 7th, 2016

Bob Dylan, the poet, has been singing more than 50 years, but have you ever really stopped to listen to the words? Now that Dylan is a Nobel giant of literature, we asked Christopher Ricks, professor of English ...

Trump in the World

49:59 | Dec 1st, 2016

Trump says he knows more than the generals, so this week we’re talking to the colonels about the future of U.S. foreign policy.Col. Lawrence Wilkerson joins us to try and sort through all the noise and ...

Swingin’ with Zadie Smith

49:57 | Nov 22nd, 2016

Zadie Smith is the writer who likes to say she learns more from dancers – Fred Astaire to Michael Jackson, Baryshnikov, Beyoncé – than from writers and a young lifetime of reading. Author of the ...

Normalize This!

50:12 | Nov 18th, 2016

Last week, the election of Donald J. Trump came as a thunderclap. This week, the echoes are still ringing in the ears of the American polity. Reports of the demise of the Republican party turned ...

Seeing Red in Trump’s America

50:24 | Nov 11th, 2016

So! It happened. Hillary Clinton failed. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th of the United States. His election marks an earthquake in American politics – one that the seismic monitors of Big Media political pundits, data ...

Class Conflict

49:58 | Nov 4th, 2016

Here in Massachusetts, in the birthplace of Horace Mann’s free American ‘common school’, an intense battle over charter schools — one with outsized national stakes — will be decided at the ballot box next week. ...

‘The Great Derangement’

49:56 | Oct 27th, 2016

The most urgent existential risk facing the world today has received barely a footnote’s worth of attention in this presidential campaign. Over the course of the past three presidential debates, a grand total of five ...

American Wreckage

50:12 | Oct 21st, 2016

Thomas Paine, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Hobbes all agreed: A house divided against itself cannot stand. In this election season, the massive fault lines of gender, race, and class—snaking deep underneath the ...

The Locker-Room Election

50:01 | Oct 14th, 2016

Donald Trump’s gross behavior towards women has been self-evident for years. Even The Donald himself, seen in this Howard Stern video from 2006, agrees that Donald Trump can be called a sexual predator. So how do ...

The Cyber

49:58 | Oct 7th, 2016

Can a secret still be a secret if everybody knows about it?Top brass US intelligence officials, including former NSA director General Michael Hayden, seem to think so. “Stuxnet, no comment!” echoes like a mantra throughout ...

‘Secular Rapture’: Trump and the American Dispossessed

49:48 | Sep 30th, 2016

Working-class whites are now the reigning champs of pessimism in America.  No other group of working-class Americans — Black, Hispanic, or Asian — holds a more despairing, more dire outlook on the future of our country. ...

Revenge of the 90s

52:30 | Sep 21st, 2016

If all elections are about the future, why does this one come with so much baggage from our political and cultural past?It was in the misfit decade of the ‘90s that both Donald Trump and ...