It’s the End of a Year

December 31st, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

I didn’t really stop to think about it until the last few weeks, but this has really been a hell of a year, for me personally and for the world in general. A lot of things were really different on January 1, 2011, and a lot of things didn’t go at all as I expected. So pardon me if I get a little verklempt. A year ago…

Mubarak and Ben Ali and Gaddafi were in power, and nobody believed that the protests then underway in Tunisia were going to lead anywhere.

The Wisconsin anti-Walker protests and Occupy Wall Street were unimaginable, nobody was talking about inequality, and political debate revolved around congressional obstructionism and deficit fearmongering.

I didn’t know what the rest of my graduate education was going to look like or whether I was going to have funding; now I’m just back from 3 months in Luxembourg thanks to the support of the Fondation National de la Recherche Luxembourg.

Jacobin was just a quixotic little magazine project that my friend Bhaskar started and that I agreed to write for; now I’m a co-editor, we’ve seen faster growth than I could possibly imagine, and the latest issue has better content, better design, and better attention from people I respect than I ever hoped for.

And this blog was just a place for me to vent my thoughts and practice my writing, with no particular expectation that anybody would read it (except John, of course). Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented here—I get more from you than from most anonymous academic peer reviewers.

In keeping with what appears to be a new Internet tradition, these were the five most-read posts on this site (this doesn’t include traffic to my cross-posts at the Jacobin blog, which would probably change the rankings):

The Partisan and the Political. One link from Talking Points Memo was all it took to get 11,000 people reading this one in a day. It was an argument I’d been meaning to write down for years, but I guess I’m glad I waited.

Anti-Star Trek. The gift that keeps on giving. This post wasn’t even written in 2011, but nobody read it until it got launched into the blogosphere in July. My vision of a rentier dystopia led to countless posts on artificial scarcity, as well as what I think is my most complex and original contribution to Jacobin thus far.

Cheap Labor and the Great Stagnation. This is the great thing about the Internet. I raise a critique of blog-star Tyler Cowen’s book, and the next thing you know Cowen himself is linking to it. This was one of those that I thought almost too obvious to bother writing down, but I guess it really needed to be said.

Capitalism Without Capitalists One of the first posts of mine that ever got attention from a noteworthy blogger, laying out a sort of tricky argument that I still go back to now and then.

The Basic Income and the Helicopter Drop. In this one I got to bang the drum for the Basic Income and pretend I understand the finer points of Federal Reserve monetary policy. And I don’t think I even made too much of an ass of myself!

This year, my ideas and arguments have spread to a wider audience than I ever expected, and I’ve encountered lots of interesting people along the way. If you had told me that Charles Stross would tweet a link to my essay, and that one of my faulty arguments would get corrected by Cosma Shalizi, dayenu. But in addition:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara, Seth Ackerman, Mike Beggs, and the whole Jacobin crew are awesome and helped create something I’m really proud of.
  • Mike Konczal gave me way more exposure than I deserve, and he’s that rare liberal who takes Marxists seriously. And I even got to make friends with him IRL!
  • Aaron Bady is another guy who gave me undue props, and he impresses me by thinking way harder about the role and responsibility of small, non-institutional bloggers than I ever did.
  • Henry Farrell has been a thoughtful interlocutor and a consistent promoter of Peter Frase/Jacobin content.
  • Rob Horning is always fun to argue with, even if he’ll never be able to abide my relentlessly optimistic techno-futurism.
  • Matt Yglesias, whatever my disagreements with him, deserves credit for being the first person to link to both “Capitalism Without Capitalists” and “Anti-Star Trek”, starting me on the path to whatever small amount of Internet attention I now enjoy.
  • On a similar note, I’m grateful to Reihan Salam if only because now I can say that my ideas were denounced by the website of the National Review. It’s kind of like in college when all I wanted was to be personally denounced by the right-wing campus paper.

I could go on like this forever, so apologies to all those I’ve omitted.

Back when I didn’t have readers, I didn’t worry too much about letting the blog lapse for weeks or months when I didn’t feel the urge to write. Now I feel a little more pressure to produce, but the discipline of posting regularly is good for me…so I’ll be back for more in 2012. Resolutions include: more statistical graphics, more engagement with female writers, and more veiled references to unspeakably nerdy topics.

It’s the end of a fucked up year, there’s another one coming:

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