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Revolution in Ideas

Monday 9th October

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The Russian Revolution of 1917 was not only a political revolution, it was an unprecedented thought experiment - a revolution in ideas, from early thinking about the biosphere and systems theory, to women's emancipation and racial equality, in architecture, social science and experiments in art and music.

British writers, thinkers and radicals including HG Wells, Bertrand Russell and Arthur Ransom either visited the Soviet Union or wrote passionately in support of the young regime. Sylvia Pankhurst corresponded with Lenin directly from London, while Bertrand Russell, on returning from Moscow, compared what he saw to the vision of Plato's republic. Decades before the civil rights movement, a generation of African American thinkers including Paul Robeson and the philosopher W E B Du Bois, visited Moscow and were inspired by the early Soviet example. The Russian Revolution also gave a huge boost to the new and radical social sciences as they were beginning to grow - the idea that social institutions could be subject to scrutiny in a clear, scientific manner was thrilling to Western intellectuals.

Justin Champion, the historian, explores a revolutionary moment that drew on the ideas of Plato and Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ as much as it did on Marx, bringing in new concepts and vocabularies, transforming Western thought in the process.

Contributors include: Francis Fukuyama, China Mieville, Slavoj Zizek, Sheila Fitzpatrick and Gabriel Prokofiev

Presenter: Justin Champion

Producer: Simon Hollis 

A Brook Lapping Production for BBC Radio 4