William Smith on Irving Babbitt Podcast #6

William Smith

William Smith joins the Democracy Paradox to explain the imperialistic tendencies of democracy. His research focuses on early twentieth century scholar Irving Babbitt, author of Leadership and Democracy (1922).


William Smith on Imperialism and Democracy

This episode features William Smith, author of Democracy and Imperialism: Irving Babbitt and Warlike Democracies. Irving Babbitt is an underappreciated political theorist. He wrote the classic Democracy and Leadership in 1924 before the Behavioralist Revolution of the 1950s so his work is often overlooked by contemporary political scientists. Babbitt has an enormous influence on conservative political theory and philosophy. His ideas about democracy, leadership and imperialism are as relevant for discussion today than ever before. His focus on character and virtue in political leaders has never been more salient than it has been during the global pandemic.

The podcast discusses many important theorists of political thought and philosophy including Rousseau, Huntington and Hobbes. We discuss how some of Babbitt’s thought applies to current and historical events. We discuss the Iraq War, Ukraine and touch on Trump’s own style of leadership.

This is one of the early episodes of the Democracy Paradox, but it is also one of the most unique. It blurs the line between political theory and international relations. But most important, the scholarship of William Smith relies on the ideas of an earlier scholar. Sometimes, it feels as though he channels the ideas of Irving Babbitt into the present age. Smith goes beyond the most famous work of Babbitt to incorporate less well known works and letters to bring new insights into this forgotten scholar. And more importantly, he draws insights into contemporary political events.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. You can find Democracy and Imperialism: Irving Babbitt and Warlike Democracies at Amazon or your local library.

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