I often despair of the sad state of political/cultural commentary, even (or especially) among the established journals of progressive thought. The substance and sensibilities seem so stale and predictable, so focused on Washington, so resistant to really new ideas. Consider The Nation magazine’s clueless, near-reactionary reviews of books about copyright and Internet culture, and the general neglect among U.S. political mags in focusing on the Transition Town movement, Solidarity Economy and other emergent strands of the worldwide commons movement.
What a breath of fresh air, then, to encounter a new British magazine Stir [as in "Stir to Action"], just released into the world by its editor Jonathan Gordon-Farleigh. I immediately confess a bias because Stir features an essay by me, but I contributed the piece in ignorance of what the first issue would look like. Now I am eager for the next issue to appear! The magazine is a highly thoughtful, provocative look at the creative energies of local community action. It doesn't pander to prejudices; it challenges them in a constructive way.
“The reason for this existence of this magazine,” writes Gordon-Farleigh in his opening preface, “is the self-evident need to move beyond the idea of critique as a catalogue of crises and problems by producing and referring to various social groups and communities’ strategies that will inspire and en-courage us to surmount the particular challenges we face…. Critique has been more than adequate in describing and naming the problems we face, but has been insufficient in devising feasible and viable ways of living and exchanging that are not subordinated to wealth creation.”
Stir makes good on its founding premise by featuring a rich variety of fascinating essays and profiles about local action. I was especially taken by “The Practice of Unknowing” by Marianne Maeckelberg, a Dutch anthropologist, who clarified for me something that I had intuited but had trouble articulating: that the very forms of knowledge about the commons are radically different from those of 20th Century politics.