The new issue of Jacobin will be out next week, just after Christmas, and it’s full of great stuff. You should subscribe if you haven’t already, or give someone else a gift subscription if you have. (You can place an order with the right shipping address, send an email to email@example.com with your gift announcement, and we’ll handle the rest.)
This issue’s cover is inspired by my lead editorial, which is both an appreciation and a critique of the Baffler, the small magazine that strongly influenced me and others associated with Jacobin back in its 1990’s heyday, and which was recently relaunched under new leadership. I’m sure people will enjoy the salacious catfight element of sniping at another publication, but I hope they also respond to my larger purpose, which is to explain why the Baffler was so important and appropriate to the time of its initial run, and why I think Jacobin is reacting to a qualitatively different historical moment.
While you’re waiting for the issue to appear, here are two things you should do. The first is to help defend University of Rhode Island professor and Lawyers, Guns, & Money blogger Erik Loomis. As explained in this statement at Crooked Timber, Loomis is the victim of an absurd rightist smear campaign, all because he used Twitter to metaphorically demand NRA head Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick” in the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting. I’ve had my strong disagreements with Loomis, but this is a moment to pull together in solidarity. As an untenured professor, Loomis’s job and career are at risk, and what’s happening to him is a risk that all of us run when we air radical ideas in public. Read the statement for more, or just go right ahead and contact the following administrators at URI:
- Dean Winnie Brownell: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Provost Donald DeHays: email@example.com
- President David Dooley: firstname.lastname@example.org
The second thing I would recommend for U.S. readers is to have a look at this page, which catalogs the positions of Senate Democrats on President Obama’s plan to cut Social Security through a change in the way benefits are adjusted for inflation. Some have already come out against it, but many more haven’t made their position clear, and a few are in favor. If your Senators are in the undecided or pro-cuts group, you can use the site to contact them and either express your disagreement, or try to pin them down on their position. Figuring out where all these politicians stand will be important in trying to beat back these cuts, just as it was in the fight over Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
With that out of the way, here are some other things I’ve published elsewhere lately that may be of interest.
I have an essay in a rather unusual venue for me: the “Garage Sale Standard”, a broadsheet that was commissioned to accompany a recent staging of artist Martha Rosler’s “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My essay, “The Garage Sale and Other Utopias”, can be found in PDF form here. I attempt to place the garage sale in the context of capitalism’s fetish of the commodity, and individual attempts to escape from it:
To alter the conditions that produce things like the Foxconn scandal would require a radical, worldwide transformation of the kind of society and economy we live in. Lacking the ability to bring about such a change, consumers disturbed by what is revealed when objects are defetishized understandably look for ways to avoid implication in processes of production that they find ugly and exploitative. Two of the most popular strategies are ethical consumption and buying secondhand. But while each of these points in certain hopeful and utopian directions, each also demonstrates the limits of seeking individual solutions to a collective dilemma.
I also have an essay in the most recent issue of the New Inquiry, “Sowing Scarcity”. It’s a discussion of agriculture, in which I attempt to combine my longstanding preoccupation with intellectual property laws with a richer appreciation of ecological issues:
This is late capitalism’s inverted world, where business and government treat nature as infinite but strictly ration culture. Thus does capitalism, billed in every economics textbook as the supreme mechanism for allocating scarce resources, degenerate into a machine that introduces scarcity where it need not exist and blithely squanders the things that are in short supply.
Finally, I had a blast appearing on Portland’s KBOO radio to discuss the Basic Income and anti-work leftism with Joe Clement and Kathryn Sackinger and take questions from callers over the course of an hour. You can find the audio file at the link, along with some supplementary reading. If you want to hear an explanation and defense of Universal Basic Income as a Gorzian “non-reformist reform” in audio format, I think this is a pretty comprehensive one.