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• Last updated: July 27, 2016

Podcast #220: Tyrants — A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror

Since the days of Ancient Greece, a battle between two political forces has been going on in the West: democracy vs. tyranny.

But what makes a tyrant a tyrant? How has tyranny changed throughout Western history? And what is its connection to masculinity?

My guest today has recently published a book that explores these questions. His name is Waller Newell. He’s a professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University in Canada. I’ve had Waller on the podcast before to discuss his great book, The Code of Man.

Today on the show, we discuss his latest book, Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror. Waller and I talk about the three types of tyranny that pop up in world history, what we can learn about tyranny and masculinity from the Ancient Greeks and Romans, how some tyrants paved the way for liberal democracies, how ISIS is a form of modern tyranny, and what the antidote to tyranny is. This is a fascinating show with lots of implications for today’s geopolitical environment. 

Show Highlights

  • How the traditional idea of manliness in the West includes being involved in public affairs
  • What is tyranny?
  • How the history of tyranny is the history of its defeat
  • What most people get wrong about tyranny
  • Why increasing standards of living doesn’t defeat tyranny
  • The traits of “garden variety tyrants”
  • Why the ancient Greeks allowed tyrants every now and then in their society
  • The tension in ancient Greece between heroic masculinity and civic virtue
  • How Plato redirected Bronze Age ideals towards the civic good
  • The tension between Greek democracy and Persian tyrannical empire (and how the Greeks borrowed ideas from the Persians)
  • Why Persian tyrants often allowed for lots of personal freedom for their subjects
  • The love-hate relationship the West has had with tyrants since the ancient Greeks
  • How the tyrant-hating Romans embraced tyranny
  • How reforming tyrants paved the way for modern Western democracies
  • The traits of millenarian tyranny and how it developed
  • How Rousseau unintentionally inspired millenarian tyranny
  • How the violence of millenarian tyrants differs from the violence of garden variety tyrants
  • How philosophers like Heidegger and Sartre are the intellectual godfathers of Islamic jihadism
  • Waller’s theory on how to defeat millenarian tyrannies like ISIS

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast

tyrants book cover waller newell

Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror is a super fascinating read. You basically get a political history of the West all the way from ancient Greece to today. If you want a better understanding of what’s going on in today’s volatile geopolitical world, Tyrants is a must read.

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