The Return of the Baffler

by Henry Farrell on May 8, 2012

The Baffler, one of the great little magazines, is back again in a new print incarnation. And, for the first time (I think), it has a “proper website”: The US Intellectual History blog has run a short round table on the issue – contributions, in order are “here”:, “here”:, and “here”:, with a reply from the new editor, John Summers, “here”: George Scialabba is an associate editor, and Aaron Swartz a contributing editor (both, of course, are long time members of the CT community). Readers are warmly encouraged to “subscribe”: and/or to “donate”: to the magazine’s Kickstarter campaign, which ends in only a couple of days.

The theme of the new issue is capitalist innovation and its problems. Quoting the framing piece by John Summers:

bq. The fable that we are living through a time of head-snapping innovation in technology drives American thought these days – dystopian and utopian alike. But if you look past both the hysteria and the hype, and place the achievements of technology in historical perspective, then you may recall how business leaders promised not long ago to usher us into a glorious new time of abundance that stood beyond history. And then you may wonder if their control over technology hasn’t excelled mainly at producing dazzling new ways to package and distribute consumer products (like television) that have been kicking around history for quite some time. The salvos in this issue chronicle America’s trajectory from megamachines to minimachines, from prosthetic gods to prosthetic pals, and raise a corollary question from amid all these strangely unimaginative innovation: how much of our collective awe rests on low expectations?

There are some startlingly close parallels to the aspirations of the USSR, as described in Red Plenty, which I’ll be talking about at greater length in my contribution to the forthcoming seminar. There are also some claims that I disagree with. I’m not at all sure that this introduction has the diagnosis right. Much like the old Baffler, there are some good and excellently entertaining criticisms of specific elements of techno-boosterism, but also a little too much emphasis on the cultural rather than the political dimensions of techology.

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Maurice Sendak has died

by Henry Farrell on May 8, 2012

“NYT article here”: