The Baffler #60 – The Squandering Earth

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Description

The Baffler is America’s leading voice of interesting and unexpected left-wing political criticism, cultural analysis, short stories, poems and art. We publish six print issues annually, as well as online content every day of the cursed workweek.

Founded in 1988 by Thomas Frank as “the journal that blunts the cutting edge,” the magazine is currently edited by Jonathon Sturgeon and headquartered in New York. We publish both new and established voices, and our regular contributors include Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Evgeny Morozov, Rick Perlstein and Astra Taylor.

Our regular subjects include Silicon Valley snake-oil, the deadening weight of consumer capitalism, our faithless media, and the redemptive promise of people claiming control of their own lives. Submit your own dyspeptic work for our consideration over here.

The Baffler is owned by the non-profit Baffler Foundation and the majority of our budget comes from tax-deductible donations. We are as charitable as a church, and certainly more fun. Please give us your money. We will beg and/or threaten dogs as necessary.

Contents

In The Squandering Earth, issue no. 60 of The Baffler, we cast aspersions on the accumulation-crazed multinationals ransacking the planet for profit, making us all feel like used-up bottles of stuff while they amass exponentially more indestructible bottles of stuff. This waste-producing apparatus is vast, Ajay Singh Chaudhary writes in “The Extractive Circuit,” “the leaden reality of a global human ecological niche organized for maximal profitability—no matter how difficult or costly to maintain.” This circuit, he stresses, “is not a metaphor,” but an accelerating systems-crash that steals time and resources from zones of least resistance, like fragile habitats. One such zone, Zachariah Webb writes in “Dead Pools,” is the state of Arizona, which has achieved almost total dehydration in a global scheme with no prospects for reform. Another is Sudan, where drought, famine, and civil war project a future of stark nomadism, Jérôme Tubiana reports. And as Bryce Covert explains in her survey of the United States’s frayed infrastructure for distributing pandemic relief, stopping this systems-crash will require a jolt to our political imagination.

At other nodes along the circuit: Dave Denison follows the trail of his own recycling to the overwhelming realization that single-use plastic production will soon swamp the habitable world; Allyson Paty documents her waste stream against the “environmental ouroboros” of liberal individualist ethics; and Samuel Stein surveys the ultra-skinny high-rises and other towers of waste that now sprawl upward in our cities like accusing fingers pointed at god.

In conditions of total extraction, culture is mined like anything else. Rich Woodall writes accordingly about copyright in a music industry dominated by three major labels, and other investment groups, that strip catalogs and even songs themselves for sellable parts. In “Beckett on the Richter Scale,” Marco Roth looks at the work of Evan Dara, an anonymous novelist whose intensifying fantasies of disaster seem to draw mysteriously from disparate communities. And, mercifully, J.W. McCormack’s “Mr. Garbage” finds hope in the fiction of Donald Barthelme, whose “junkman aesthetic allowed him to regulate the temperature in his model worlds and reframe their parameters accordingly.” Node, zone, worker, consumer, or resource: we’ll have to do some regulating to overcome this fatigue and ask, as Chaudhary does, “How has this level of degradation become so acceptable?”

Other People’s Opinions

“The magazine pioneered a distinctive brand of analysis — hip to pop culture, but skeptical of its claims of political subversiveness — and inspired a later generation of upstart journals like n+1 and Jacobin”.
—The New York Times, July 21, 2014

“The Baffler represents itself as an alternative to a national discourse fraught with mediocrity. In its drive to fall ‘outside the debate,’ as Lehmann states, it generates some brilliant counter-intuitive analysis, namely Ehrenreich’s discourse on animals and how they hate us.”
—The Atlantic Wire, April 3, 2012

“The hallmark here is a kind of self-conscious crankiness. The Baffler’s basic worldview is that everything is terrible, and also that all change is for the worse. In a world of enthusiasts, this is the voice of dyspepsia.”
—Vox, December 9, 2014

 

 

 

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