The Politics of Loneliness

The Politics of Loneliness

By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

David talks to economist and author Noreena Hertz about loneliness and its impact on all our lives. How does the experience of loneliness shape contemporary democracy? What kind of politics could make us feel more connected? Can technology bring us together or is it driving us further apart? Plus we discuss the consequences of the pandemic for the future of work and the possibility of building a better world.

Loneliness has been rising among young people over recent years: 3 in 5 18-34 year olds feel lonely often or sometimes; nearly a half of 10-15 year olds.

Lockdown has likely exacerbated these numbers.So much of the interaction between young people is online; parents can’t see the exclusion.

Loneliness is political as well as personal, social as well as economic.

Exclusion and marginalisation are also forms of loneliness.Can loneliness bridge generational divides?In the pandemic, we are all sharing a negative experience—will this produce solidarity or divisions? 

What solutions do politicians provide for solidarity?

In recent times, the left hasn’t provided a strong alternative notion of solidarity.The diminishment of trade unions and workplace solidarity play a part here as well. What politician will speak for the lonely?

Democracy produces certain kinds of visibility and excludes others. What would it look like to be more open to the lonely?

There is a skillset associated with inclusive democracy that we are in danger of losing.There are inspiring examples of participatory democracy on the local level.In a lonely world, representative democracy filters out the lonely.

If loneliness is the problem, and human beings are increasingly socially inept, the machines might step in.

In Japan, robot-human interaction is widespread, especially among the elderly.What will increasingly intelligent robots do to our relationships with each other?

Mentioned in this Episode:

Noreena’s book, The Lonely Century: Coming Together in a World that's Pulling ApartNoreena on ‘Generation K’The Camden Citizens’ Assembly on the climate crisis

Further Learning:

The New York Times on how to manage lonelinessSolitary citizens: the politics of lonelinessMore on robotic eldercare in JapanOur episode with Yuval Harari

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:

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