Going in Circles: Amanda Coker, World Record Cyclist

Despite the fact that Amanda Coker has now cycled further in a year than any other human, she has been dogged by critical voices on social media. This in part relates to her methods —she has ridden in circles around the exact same seven-mile loop for the past 365 days, and she often rides a relaxed ‘recumbent’ bike. Chris Townsend explores the excessive nature of her achievements, and attempts to make sense of the claim that what she has done is “not real cycling”.

Fieldwork in Lyonesse: Salvage Ethnography before the Anthropocene Floods

If the Norfolk Broads are a landscape woven on the loom of history, then the Anthropocene could represent the age of its unravelling. Drawing on both his research experiences in the Broads, as well as the mythological and folkloric significance of that landscape, Jonathan Woolley asks why, when our darkest nightmares are becoming ecological reality, we find ourselves so paralysed to act.

The Politics of Happiness

With measures of subjective well-being on the rise, what role does happiness have to play in politics? Should it inform our judgements about who receives welfare payments? Might the government try to direct society towards a particular notion of ‘happiness’? Sam Dalton explores these questions and more, and argues that a public, deliberative politics of happiness might indeed be a good thing.

International Women’s Day: Female Consciousness

This week, on the 8th of March, thousands will renounce their daily demands to strike for International Women’s Day. Women are calling upon women to act, or not act, in any way they can: to ‘put a broom outside the front door or a banner in the window; bang pots and pans, change your facebook profile to the image of the Strike, refuse to do the washing up or the shopping, charge double for sex work’.

In Defense of Incomplete Endings

Despite its mainstream success at the box office, ‘La La Land’ resists fulfilling the usual Hollywood romance narratives. Reading the film alongside Roland Barthes’s ‘The Lover’s Discourse’, Rebecca Liu suggests that the message of both is that “to love, sometimes, means to know when it is time to let go”.

Hipster Post-Factualism and the Rise of the Extremely Real

While the left-leaning media bemoan the rise of a “post-truth” political culture, might not the left wing be just as easy to caricature as “post-factualist” as is the right? Natalie Morningstar examines the figure of the hipster, as liberal consumer par excellence, and argues that a moralising language of truth and reality – of factualism – spans the full breadth of the political spectrum.

Second-Hand: “Song of Solomon”, Toni Morrison

  ‘Second-Hand’ is a series of alternative book reviews. Traditional reviews, with their emphasis on the latest and greatest novels, risk leaving the reader behind. This column offers a breathing space, by focusing each time on a single second-hand book. The focus of this column is on chance encounters, revisionary readings of classic novels, and on the margins of the literary canon. It is a celebration of the book as physical object, in an […]

Hito Steyerl’s “Liquidity Inc.” and Art Under Neoliberalism

What can contemporary art tell us about the reality in which we’re living? Through a reading of “Liquidity Inc.” by the German artist Hito Steyerl, Gary Zhang reflects on 2008 as a technological, economic and aesthetic turning point — and on its consequences for representing realism in a ‘post-truth’ world.

Re-reading Trump’s Campaign Book “Crippled America”

As is now tradition for presidential candidates in the United States, Donald Trump committed many of his key policies to print ahead of the 2016 election, in the campaign book “Crippled America”. Now, after Trump’s campaign was proven successful and at the end of 2016, Chris Townsend turns to the book for some answers.

Second-Hand: “Report to Greco”, Nikos Kazantzakis

‘Second-Hand’ is a series of alternative book reviews. Traditional reviews, with their emphasis on the latest and greatest novels, risk leaving the reader behind. This column offers a breathing space, by focusing each week on a single second-hand book.

 The focus of this column is on chance encounters, revisionary readings of classic novels, and on the margins of the literary canon. It is a celebration of the book as physical object, in an […]

Zadie Smith’s “Swing Time” and the Death of Liberalism

At the end of 2016, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time feels both apposite and timely, as a story about “the failure of liberal thought”. Rebecca Liu details the ways in which the novel deals a blow against the myth that individuals from any background can, with the right attitude and enough effort, achieve their dreams — and the notion that wealth is an indicator of success.

The need for a new party, redux

During the Great Depression 85 years ago, when masses of American voters had ‘lost all confidence that politics can accomplish anything significant’, American philosopher John Dewey wrote of the urgent need to move beyond the business-dominated two-party system. The Democratic and Republican national committees were at the time colluding to restrict both extra-party competition and intra-party dissent in ways that strikingly resemble today’s two-party cartel. Dewey’s argument is both as obvious today as it was then, and as woefully unfulfilled.

The New Libertarian

The leader of the U.S. Libertarian Party, Gary Johnson, has had an election campaign marred by blunders and blusters. But Johnson is seen by many as the only viable alternative to the Clinton-Trump race for the Whitehouse, polling as high as 6%. As a rebranded Libertarian Party attempts to court both disenfranchised Democrats and rebellious Republicans alike, Jack Marley-Payne examines the truths and the fictions behind their policies and promises.

Orwell on Patriotism

During the Conservative Party Conference last week, the prime minister gave a speech critical of those in the political class who turn up their noses at the public’s patriotism, national pride, and pro-British sentiment. Our editor Chris Townsend thinks through May’s comments with George Orwell on his side.

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