Points of Departure—About The World At Large
The idea of creating a magazine on the left is of course not new, at least as old as 1831 with William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator and as new as James Livingston’s Politics/Letters in 2015. I titled this founding statement “points of departure” after the late Edward W. Said because he offered a critical sense of what I think everyone wonders (maybe implicitly) when something new appears, what are beginnings? What does it mean to begin?
Every beginning entails a form of departure—we consciously and unconsciously write within broader fields of knowledge. We absorb the thought and the style of past writers and then strive to make our own. And yet writing always posits itself in the constellation of other authors and influences. All writing is provisional or rhetorical, as John Landreau once told me. The same is true of music, painting, and every other art. The idea can be broken down even further: from whom does one depart, how does one accomplish this, and why? We could consider intention as an emergent self-consciousness in artistic and historical processes, yet we would also have to acknowledge the role of serendipity plays, and how it enables people to establish themselves in relation to modernity.
When we find a work of art original, it is because it cannot be easily placed in the midst of others. It stands out, defined by its intention as much as by its method in producing difference through similarity. This moment, when we begin to mix clashing opposites, was what Hegel called dialectics and what Marx used to analyze capitalism. Its byproducts are the hopes of and for innovation that come with a break in thought, as ideas are purportedly broken down to their fundamental remnants, only to be refigured into something new. Well, that is the goal, anyway, for a beginning.
But are we really that audacious to announce that we are creating “points of departure” in the intellectual milieu of modern thought? Are we arrogant or just plain stupid? Neither.
We have no prescience about potential horizons—we will leave that to news pundits and philosophers. Rather our notions are embedded in history as a challenge to the idée fixe of our time, neoliberalism—a political moment when the triumph of unregulated global markets seems all but inevitable (and desirable), and the hands of labor seem all but crushed (and silent). We’re searching for a usable past that presents a lingua franca to maneuver the endless inundation of knowledge from the Internet, smart phone, and tablet. In other words, what should you believe today, and why? Are politics really a matter of customary handwringing when one party loses over another? Or are their earlier, deeper antecedents to our contemporary problems? Are there parallels to the past that can offer new visions about the world at large for the millennial generation?
These are the questions we ask as we attempt to explain the history of ideas not as forgone conclusions, but as topics that weigh heavily on the way we conceive ourselves. We take seriously the idea from Maurice Dobb in his big book on capitalism that “systems are never in reality to be found in their pure form, and in any period of history elements characteristic both of preceding and of succeeding periods are to be found, sometimes mingled in extraordinary complexity.”
The “social revolutions” that Dobb says break the tempo of history are not events until they are endowed with meaning from us—Nietzsche was correct to say that “[truth] is therefore not something there, that might be found or discovered—but something that must be created and that gives a name to a process.” Actions occur, life is always happening, but the salience of such events, the incessant marching drumbeat of life, is decidedly a human invention.
We want you to read The World At Large for challenging viewpoints on international and national politics, art, music, culture, philosophy, love; all with a broad mind for history and political opportunity. We want you to take seriously the idea that political apathy simply is no longer feasible. As Millennials, we need to find a history that gives voice to the present, simplifies it, explains it, provides a framework for action, for voting, for argument and debate.
That is what The World is all about.
Founder and Editor-In-Chief, Jack Werner