New Left Review

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New Left Review
NLR Cover May June 05.gif
Type Journal
Format Magazine
Editor Susan Watkins
Founded 1960
Political alignment Socialist/Marxist
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Official website www.newleftreview.org/

New Left Review is a 160-page journal, published every two months from London, devoted to world politics, economy and culture. Often compared to the French-language Les Temps modernes, it is associated with Verso Books (formerly New Left Books), and regularly features the essays of authorities on contemporary social theory, history and philosophy.

Published without interruption since 1960, New Left Review is widely held to be—as The Guardian put it in 1993—the "flagship of the Western intellectual Left."[citation needed] In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information conducted an impact factor analysis which ranked New Left Review 12th on a list of the top 20 political science journals in the world.[1]

History[edit]

Background[edit]

The roots of the British "New Left" lay in the 1956 political crisis of the Communist Party of Great Britain, during which the so-called "Secret Speech" of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet invasion of Hungary prompted a flight of nearly 10,000 members from the party.[2] Passionate debate sprung up among British leftists over matters of Marxist theory and contemporary history and new journals emerged to carry commentary on such matters to a waiting audience.

One such publication was The Reasoner, a magazine launched by historians E. P. Thompson and John Saville in July 1956.[2] A total of three quarterly issues were produced.[2]

This publication was expanded and further developed from 1957 through 1959 as The New Reasoner, with an additional ten numbers being produced under that moniker.[3] Contributors to this journal included historian Ralph Miliband, philosopher Charles Taylor, cultural theorist Stuart Hall, Marxist historian John Saville and novelist Doris Lessing.[3]

Another radical journal of the period was Universities and Left Review, a publication established in 1957 with less of a sense of allegiance to the British communist tradition.[3] This publication was more youth-oriented and pacifist in orientation, expressing opposition to the militaristic rhetoric of the Cold War, voicing strong opposition to the Suez War of 1956, and supportive of the emerging Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[3]

Establishment[edit]

New Left Review was launched in January 1960 when the editors of The New Reasoner and Universities and Left Review merged their boards. The founders of the new journal hoped that it would provide the motive force for a new round of political organisation in Britain, inspiring the creation of "New Left Clubs" and helping to reinvent socialism as a viable force in British politics.

The journal was initially edited by Stuart Hall and was marked by a preoccupation with popular culture and advancing a Marxist critique of contemporary consumer capitalism. It debated the perspectives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and explored alternatives to the false choices of Cold War politics, taking an interest in both Sweden and Cuba.

The first issue of the publication was issued in a press run of 9,000.[4] The early publication's style, featuring illustrations on the cover and in the interior layout, was more irreverent and free-flowing than later issues of the publication, which tended to be of a more somber, academic bent.[5]

Stuart Hall was succeeded as editor in 1962 by Perry Anderson, who introduced a book-like format with longer articles, footnotes, fewer topical comments and at least 96 pages per issue.

Development[edit]

The NLR—as it came to be known—drew on debates within Western Marxism and broadened its international coverage. It published work by Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, El Lissitsky, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Antonio Gramsci, and Louis Althusser, and interviewed Jean-Paul Sartre, Georg Lukács, and Lucio Colletti. Translations and presentations by Quintin Hoare, Ben Brewster, and others introduced these important thinkers to the English language public.

A distinctive feature of the journal was a series of 'country studies' with Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn supplying an account of the peculiar formation of capitalism and the state in Britain (E. P. Thompson disagreed in an essay published in the annual Socialist Register, 1965). The journal has also specialized in sweeping global surveys. In 1966 the journal published Juliet Mitchell's essay 'Women, the Longest Revolution', a founding text of second wave feminism. Nearly every issue from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s carried an account by a worker of their experience at work.

Texts of the aesthetic avant-garde were published and a series of articles on film by Peter Wollen. The journal covered third world anti-imperial movements. It reflected the concerns of the student movements of the 1960s and 1970s and documented the crises of the Communist regimes in Russia and eastern Europe. Isaac Deutscher, Raymond Williams, Raphael Samuel, and Ralph Miliband published in the journal and their work gave rise to important exchanges.

In the 1970s and 1980s a debate between Ernest Mandel, Alec Nove and Diane Elson focussed on the respective weight of plan, market and worker or community control in socialist economics.

In the 1990s and after the journal published major studies of the growing evidence of global capitalist disorder by Robert Brenner, Giovanni Arrighi, David Harvey, Peter Gowan and Andrew Glyn. Benedict Anderson, Mike Davis, Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, Ellen Wood, Tariq Ali and Nancy Fraser published some of their most important texts in the review. Notable studies included Robert Brenner on the origins of capitalism, Erik Olin Wright on class, Göran Therborn on the advent of democracy, Raymond Williams on the materialism of Sebastiano Timpanaro, Julian Stallabrass on Sebastiao Salgado, Ellen Dubois on how women won the vote, Kate Soper on consumerism and David Fernbach on the surprising history of gay liberation. Joan Martinez Alier, Ted Benton and Rainer Grundman addressed the need for a "green" political economy.

Robin Blackburn took over from Anderson in 1982, and continued in this role until a redesign and relaunch in 2000. The period of Blackburn's editorship was marked by a major rift on the editorial committee which culminated in the resignation of the majority of its members in 1993. Perry Anderson became the editor again, briefly, before Susan Watkins took over the role of editor in 2003.

Although there has been turnover on the editorial committee over the decades, with several editors withdrawing in 1983 and 1993, these departures—unlike the debate between Thompson and Anderson in the 1960s—were not accompanied by political disagreements (though some former editors have not shared the review's unrelenting opposition to Western military interventions).

In fact there has been continuity as well as change in the journal's stable of regular contributors and in its preoccupations, including anti-militarism. In the early 1980s it led debate on 'exterminism and the 'Second Cold War' with contributions by Thompson, Fred Halliday, Mike Davis and Rudolf Bahro. In a special issue Anthony Barnett mounted a critique of Margaret Thatcher and the Malvinas (Falklands) war.

The implications of the Soviet collapse were extensively covered. Post-modernism, post-Marxism, the fate of feminism and the real configurations of the "New World Order" were plotted and assessed. In every decade since the mid-1970s the journal has wrestled with the historical meaning of nationalism with essays by Tom Nairn, Eric Hobsbawm, Miroslav Hroch, Benedict Anderson, Stuart Hall, Ernest Gellner, Ronald Suny, Régis Debray, Michael Lowy, and Gopal Balakrishnan.

Current status[edit]

In its new form, NLR has led with controversial editorials on the direction of world politics and major articles on the United States, Japan, Turkey, Europe, Britain, Cuba, Iraq, Mexico, India and Palestine. It has published work by Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, David Graeber and Michael Hardt and featured analysis of global imbalances, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the credit crunch, the Egyptian Revolution and Arab Spring, prospects for nuclear disarmament, the scope of anti-corporate activism, the prospect of a "planet of slums," and discussions of world literature and cinema, cultural criticism and the continuing exploits of the avant-garde.

Since 2008, the Review has followed the economic crisis as well as its global political repercussions, with in-depth country studies of Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Greece, an ongoing debate on US-China economic imbalances (and their political consequences), as well as on the crisis's toll on California and the US health-care debate. An essay by Wolfgang Streeck in NLR 71 was called "most powerful description of what has gone wrong in western societies" by the Financial Times's columnist Christopher Caldwell.[6][7] The celebrated technocrat Raghuram Rajan also praised Streeck's piece as an account of later 20th-century political economy.[8]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Roland Erne, "The Profession," European Political Science (2007) 6, 306–314.
  2. ^ a b c Ian Birchall, "The Autonomy of Theory: A Short History of New Left Review," International Socialism [London], no. 10 (Winter 1980/81), pg. 53.
  3. ^ a b c d Birchall, "The Autonomy of Theory," pg. 54.
  4. ^ Birchall, The Autonomy of Theory, pg. 56.
  5. ^ Birchall, The Autonomy of Theory, pg. 59.
  6. ^ Christopher Caldwell, "The protests failed but capitalism is still in the dock," Financial Times 19 November 2011.
  7. ^ Harold Meyerson, "The growing tension between capitalism and democracy," The Washington Post 25 November 2011.
  8. ^ Raghuram Rajan, "A Crisis in Two Narratives," Project Syndicate, 27 January 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]