Last weekend, I was in Berlin at the 30th European Meeting of Cultural Journals, an annual event coordinated and run by our friends at Eurozine. This year’s focus was on 1989, the years that Eastern Europeans mobilized to tear down the barriers between East and West, allowing new democracies to rise up in nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere for decades. I felt privileged to listen to the formal talks and conversations by participants, historians and people who played both roles, and to spend time in workshops with my counterparts from journals and web magazines across Europe.
It’s refreshing to spend time in a place where everyone isn’t obsessed with the Occupant of the White House, but it’s also now strange to be in Berlin, a place where the United States was once so relevant — and is now so irrelevant. A colleague from Croatia told me kindly that America was cooked, China was taking over, and accepting this fact could help relieve our anxiety. We wanted our American readers to have a glimpse of how others see us, which is why we begin our Politics selections with Nataliya Gumenyuk’s account of the fallout from the Trump-Ukraine scandal for Ukraine, now in its fifth year. Joe Lowndes reports on a Trump rally in Minneapolis, and Jeffrey Broxmeyer looks at how platform capitalism took over the Republican party.
Another topic in Berlin is how fragile democracy is in Europe. One of our English colleagues asked in one session whether Brexit would matter to Europe. Politely everyone shrugged: no, not really, but this is as much a reflection of how much the promise of 1989 has faded. Publisher Jeffrey Goldfarb reports on the first international meeting of the Democracy 2.0 seminar; while Jacek Kucharczyk analyzes the rise of the Law and Justice Party in Poland; Zoltán Gábor Szűcs declares that “there is no democracy in Hungary anymore;” while Shaul Magid and Yahuda Magid take us to Israel/Palestine to discuss the state of democracy there.
Next, we look at technology. In “This Atom Bomb in Me,” Lindsey A. Freeman reflects on American nuclear culture; Faith Taylor discusses how reproduction itself has become intertwined with climate change; and Benjamin Peters asks how media environments have become so emotionally excruciating.
However, maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. Democrats seem to be having an excellent night at the ballot box. Gordon Sondland has corrected his testimony to Congress linking Donald Trump to a quid pro quo that would trade aid to Ukraine for dirt on Joseph and Hunter Biden. as I close the book tonight it looks like the Democrats are having a very good day at the ballot box.
So start reading, come back again to read more, and share these excellent essays with your friends. Keep up with what we’re publishing by following us us on Instagram. In the coming months, you’ll be seeing shared content from Eurozine here at Public Seminar: we are particularly excited about a project initiated by Eurozine about the role internet technologies play in strengthening and threatening democratic processes and institutions. You can read about it here. We are participating: let us know if you want to pitch us an article.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar, and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical.