Wonky and Political Podcasts About How Society Works
November 20, 2018 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I love wonky and political podcasts that have experts come on to analyze current social/political events and trends from the perspective of their expertise. And every time I find myself running a little dry of new episodes like that to listen to, I get tipped off to another fascinating podcast by you find folks on the Blue. So would you please do me a favor and turn this thread into a treasure trove of cool things for me to listen to over Thanksgiving?

Podcasts that I currently love:
Pod Save America
The Ezra Klein Show
In the Weeds
Reply All

I am very interested in analysis of social and political trends. For example, The Ezra Klein show just had an academic on for a long interview talking about trolling and media framing of political rhetoric, and it was fascinating. More of that, please!

Any cool podcasts related to civics or even government administration would also be great! The wonkier the better.

Mostly, I'm interested in hearing experts analyze things that are going on in society/politics now, from the perspective of their expertise. And I love having the hosts contextualize that expert perspective within the larger social/political landscape -- so smart, interesting, and charming hosts are a big plus.

If you have specific episodes that you think that I might like, also please recommend those!
posted by rue72 to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
WNYC's On The Media is up your alley.
posted by theodolite at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wonder if you might like You Are Not So Smart. It’s a step back from analyzing current events in that it examines why people believe and behave as they do.
posted by lakeroon at 9:50 AM on November 20, 2018

Any cool podcasts related to civics or even government administration would also be great! The wonkier the better.

The first season of Crimetown is ... not wonky, necessarily, but it does give you some idea about the workings of state and municipal government.
posted by gauche at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Citations Needed is this kind of thing for journalism and media.
posted by clavicle at 9:53 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Talking Politics
posted by idb at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2018

I listen to a lot of podcasts, so this may be more than you are looking for, but:

If you're already listening to the Weeds and the Ezra Klein show, you should for sure check out Vox's other offerings like The Impact, Worldly, and Today Explained.

Ditto for the other Crooked Media podcasts, especially Pod Save the World.

If you have any interest in the economic side of things, Marketplace, Planet Money, Make Me Smart and Slate Money are all solid.

On the legal side, Amicus and What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

Also on my list that you might like:

Embedded, The Uncertain Hour, Rough Translation, Every Little Thing, this season of Serial (the others are good too, but not what you're looking for), Slate Political Gabfest if you don't mind chattiness, and possibly some of the old standards like Radiolab or This American Life, though those might be more dependent on the topic of the week.
posted by tau_ceti at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Rational Security from Lawfare is pretty wonky - the panelists have all held government positions in US national security administrations. The flipside of being wonky is they're terribly dorky and cheesy. But I've learned a ton from listening.
posted by airplant at 10:25 AM on November 20, 2018

I like Chris Hayes' Why is this Happening podcast much more than I like his MSNBC show. There's one guest per show and the conversations are usually insightful and delightfully wonky.
posted by little king trashmouth at 10:26 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Continuously running:

Reveal Podcast Investigative journalism, ranging from politics to culture
Code Switch Race and Culture, often touches on politics
Embedded Similar to Reveal

One-off podcasts about specific events/people:

The Wilderness About the Democratic Party
The Dream Investigating pyramid schemes/MLMs
Believed The Larry Nassar Story
Sold in America Deep dive into sex work in America
Serial Season 3 looks at the criminal justice system in Cleveland

Maybe you'd like:

Dr. Death A true crime podcast about a neurosurgeon harming patients
Dirty John A true crime podcast about a conman
The RFK Tapes Audio documentary about the RFK assassination conspiracy
posted by ancient star at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2018

Seconding Citations Needed.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2018

A friend tipped me off to Hidden Brain, which might scratch some of that itch for you. Sometimes it's explicitly political (like the one about the narratives we tell ourselves/get told about the white working class vote), more often it's about how the personal choices we make are influenced by a host of unseen drivers. I recently listened to a very moving one about the opioid crisis, risky behaviors, and safety nets.

Shankar Vedantam is not an expert or a wonk himself, but he's a great interviewer both with "ordinary folk" as well as actual experts in the field of that episode's topic.
posted by basalganglia at 11:17 AM on November 20, 2018

I have fairly esoteric political beliefs, so I don't care for a lot of straight-up political podcasts. But I've had some interest in some non-political ones that have touched on politics:

99% Invisible (design, broadly construed):
-Orphan Drugs
-The Worst Way to Start a City
-Post-Narco Urbanism

Freakonomics Radio (economics, but not really business):
-America's Hidden Duopoly
-Can This Man Stop a Trade War?
-Is the Government More Entrepreneurial than You Think?

Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell, if you can handle him):
-Food Fight
-My Little Hundred Million
-Divide and Conquer
-The Hug Heard Round the World

In Our Time (academic history, philosophy, and literature for a popular audience):
-Toqueville: Democracy in America
-The American Populists
-Animal Farm

Also, Bundyville.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

The podcast I just discovered! It's called The Uncertain Hour and it's associated with Marketplace, and they have done some fascinating deep dives into poverty & welfare, and now this season they're focused on regulations. I listened to a great piece on OxyContin and how Purdue Pharma bulldozed the FDA on label warnings last night.

The Uncertain Hour is doing investigative journalism: it's not just summaries of other people's research. And most of the editors and reporters are women.
posted by suelac at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2018

Can I recommend Yascha Mounk's The Good Fight? It is so good and he is so smart (but he also interviews one other smart person each episode).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:37 AM on November 20, 2018

The topic is pretty narrow, but I’ve been enjoying “All the President’s Lawyers,” in which journalist Josh Barro poses questions to lawyer Ken White about various aspects of law as seen through the lens of the current presidential administration. I think White is smart and interesting; whether he is charming depends on your sense of humor and tolerance for snark, I think.
posted by eirias at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Economic Update weaves economics, politics and sociology. Richard Wolff

Bill Maher
posted by cda at 12:20 PM on November 20, 2018

Get Religion is pretty specific, and covers the coverage of religious/political issues in the mainstream press, and not the theology or denominational issues (except where the coverage of same is particular clumsy or well-done). The blog has several contributors, but the podcast is the same two guys, one of which is the founder/editor.
posted by jquinby at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2018

I've been enjoying The War on Cars, a podcast about transportation and cities.
posted by ferret branca at 12:50 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Most of the pods I listen to have been referenced above, except Scholars Strategies' No Jargon, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Building Local Power, both of which are about people suggesting fixes to current problems. On the way there, they explain how things got so messed up in the first place, so that should fit in your wheelhouse. Also, try Little Atoms, 'a podcast about ideas and culture' - the host really casts a wide net, but it's consistently high-quality. Also, if you like Get Religion, above, you might also like On Being.
posted by eclectist at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2018

Stay Tuned with Preet
posted by metadave at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Marketplace and Planet Money.

I've really gotten into the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast recently.
posted by ekf at 6:19 PM on November 20, 2018

Conversations with Tyler hosts interviews with some cool academics, many of whom think about and study the mechanics and trends of society.
posted by mrmanvir at 2:00 AM on November 21, 2018

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