It isn’t hard to remember that three years ago there was a run on MAGA hats, pink wool and knitting needles, and Canadian citizenship applications. And here we are facing another election. It seems like yesterday – and yet so much has changed. #MeToo exploded, and now seems to be coming in for a reckoning of its own. Here at Public Seminar we have become keenly focused on why democracy became so fragile, not just in the United States, but around the world. And our home institution, The New School, marked its centennial year, an occasion marked by celebration, soul-searching, and a new president, Dwight McBride, who will join us in April 2020.
Public Seminar looks different than it did in 2016, a new platform and publishing style that allows us to create a new reading experience for you. For New Year’s, we are launching a new kind of feature: three essays that take on a controversial article and slow the conversation down to a pace that allows us to think. This week’s controversy was ignited back in November by Liza Featherstone’s “Moving Beyond Misogyny: Why do they hate us?” (The New Republic, November 4 2019), a review essay of Kate Manne’s Down Girl (2018). Our respondents are Jodi Dean, Eli Zaretsky, and James Livingston, each with a take on what they value in the essay.
Our New School Histories section features two essays about the complexities of institutional memory. Senior editor Mark Larrimore points out that the New School has always been a secular institution. So why has the study of religion been such a cornerstone of its intellectual life? And curator Macushia Robinson asks how we know when a centennial is, when beginnings and origin stories are nebulous fictions that satisfy the spirit of an institution rather than its history.
A final cluster of articles is organized around Andrew Arato’s Public Seminar essay about the nature of regime change in Bolivia (December 4 2019): here, Nicolás Figueroa García-Herreros, Enrique Peruzzotti, and Leonardo Avritzer offer their own analyses to broaden the conversation.
But where, you ask are our resolutions? We can’t promise you that politics will resolve themselves any time soon – if they did, we might go out of business! But in 2020 we can promise you the truth; honest debate; and excellent readings.
After all, we are a public seminar. Happy New Year, and thank you for your loyalty and support.
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.