Publications with tiny audiences have a knack for mighty pronouncements. A grandiloquent opening, some platitudes about “resurrecting intellectual discourse” followed by issue after issue of the same old shit. We can admire the confidence of our peers, but there is something pathological about this trend.
These delusions stem from a well-warranted sense of impotence. The public intellectual was born out of, and thrived throughout, the twentieth century, but left a decidedly mixed legacy. There were those who opposed injustice and parochialism—defending Dreyfus and the universality of rights, taking stands against fascism, Stalinism, and imperialism—but they were not alone. There were others seduced by nationalism. These thinkers yearned to restore lost social integrity, to renew through catastrophe, and millions suffered for their treason. Harder to come to grips with is the role self-proclaimed internationalists had in perpetuating the illusions of official Communism. Perhaps the death of the intellectual is deserved.
And yet, Jacobin was founded on the premise that there still is an audience for critical commentary. A survey of political outlets today yields two kinds of publications. The esoteric ones, sites of deliberate obfuscation, utterly disconnected from reality. They find their foils in unchallenging rags that treat their readers like imbeciles. With mainstream pretenses, high school yearbook prose, and rosy reports of mass movements in the making, their role is even more disorienting.
We aspire to avoid both traps. Substantive engagement does not preclude entertainment. Discarding stale phrases and ideas does not necessitate avoiding thought itself. Voicing discontent with the trappings of late capitalism does not mean we can’t grapple with culture at both aesthetic and political levels. Sober analysis of the present and criticisms of the Left does not mean accommodation to the status quo.
Jacobin is not an organ of a political organization nor captive to a single ideology. Our contributors are, however, loosely bound by common values and sentiments:
+ As proponents of modernity and the unfulfilled project of the Enlightenment.
+ As asserters of the libertarian quality of the socialist ideal.
+ As internationalists and epicureans.
We will have no editorial position beyond this. Every writer speaks for him or herself.
I only hope we can live up to these modest goals and avoid the outright barbarous.
— Bhaskar Sunkara
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