Don’t call it a comeback. Months ago, at the height of last winter’s Occupy eruption, I wrote that we were “in the last throes of the era of Ezra Klein.” But then came rebuttals from the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. The editorial class demanded, “More Ezra!”
Maybe “epoch” would’ve been the fitting word.
Of course, my premature announcement took Klein as representative of a broader ideology in decline. There is much to like about the wunderkind blogger — the clean prose, the friendly disposition, the intellectual curiosity. He is the best example of a technocratic liberalism that prospered in the center-left over the past decade. If anything, Jacobin expects to be, with others, part of a radical resurgence that shares Klein’s rigor and accessibility, but benefits from a structural critique of capitalism and a dynamic theory of politics. Here’s to hoping.
But there’s more than just hoping. An intellectual transformation of this sort will depend on conditions on the ground.
Spring is here and work is underway to renew the Occupy movement. The planned May Day actions will be important, though calling them a “general strike” does a disservice to that tactic and its legacy. To paraphrase labor journalist Laura Clawson: you only call a day of action a “general strike” if you’ve lost hope that a real general strike is possible. Far more is actually realizable, we just have a long way to go first.
The potential of Occupy Wall Street went far beyond those active in it day-to-day, much less the minuscule core that laid its foundation. It rested in the millions of Americans who saw in it their discontent with austerity regimes, wage cuts, unemployment, and financial abuse. If it’s acknowledged the movement could be more successful in engaging these people, the question then becomes, “What needs to change?”
So far, the creative tactics and the grunt work of coalition building in Occupy have come largely from anarchists, not the socialist left. But the larger strategic questions have yet to be addressed, and must be resolved democratically. They can’t be if socialists refuse to be confident partners in the discussion. This edition of Jacobin is another contribution to this exchange of ideas.
Yet too much navel-gazing is a danger, as well. As an intellectual journal, albeit one with the pretense of being a magazine, Jacobin must look beyond its doorstep. In this spirit, we offer a special section on the European left, edited by Seth Ackerman. The publication also continues to grapple with the problematics of work and technology, while offering spirited critiques of contemporary liberalism’s tropes and its purveyors.
It’s an out-of-style shtick, but I think we’ve done well. Too well maybe. At press, Jacobin, once just the pet project of a twenty-one-year-old editor, stands at over one thousand subscribers and boasts a much larger online audience. By the standards of radical publishing, our growth over the past year has been astounding. And, in addition to revamping our web content, we hope to climb to three thousand subscribers by Bastille Day 2013.
Our rise is testimony to the existence of an audience to the left of liberalism interested in ideas and the possibility for substantive political action.
But “by the standards of radical publishing” are the operative words here. Surrounded by mediocrity, being the tallest building in Topeka doesn’t mean much. We can await Ezra Klein’s downfall, but the future may not have shit to do with us either. Here’s to hoping some more.