Whether we like it or not, there are changes happening in the world of publishing. I’ve tried to ignore these changes for quite some time but the fact is that there really are changes happening. Without a doubt, change provokes anxiety. And our immediately response to anxiety is often cowardly – we ignore the provocation or else we run away from it. We complain about the provocation or else we embrace it. Recall Simmel’s prophetic remarks about surviving within the world of modernity: “it is out task not to complain or to condone but only to understand.” Complaining and condoning are two ways of avoiding the anxiety of change.
The fact is that a publishing venture can only survive in the new world by swimming with the current rather than against it. To be anti-capitalist, for example, is absolutely ridiculous during a time when capitalism is (1) the only option on the table, and (2) the best system of the worst, as Marx so forcefully put it. Anti-capitalists, hand in hand with those who complain about the empire of speed, are political philosophers and political philosophers can never be revolutionaries. Why? My point is really rather basic: philosophy, for all of its faults, at least encourages us to live for a little while within the time for thinking. Philosophy – political philosophy – encourages the time for thinking and yet it can only think backwards. We are dealing with a familiar philosophical maxim, one that teaches us the virtue of patience. Without patience, there is no possibility of revolutionary thinking. But philosophy by itself can never truly be revolutionary because it is always backwards looking, it can never live within its own time.
We know very well that the time for understanding can sometimes last forever. And this is the problem of understanding. Complaining and condoning are faults and yet understanding, when its time is prolonged, can also be a fault. Kierkegaard’s challenge was to teach us to live: life can only be understood backwards and yet it must be lived forward. Revolutionaries must stay alive in the turbulent waters of the times in which they find themselves. The fact is that for many philosophers and for many publishers the time for understanding is superseded by the time for concluding. Some publishers simply conclude or act too quickly. And fall back to condoning the times by acting with the times but without truly understanding the times. We must be prepared to act in a world that we understand but toward a new world which remains entirely uncertain. If we act within the world of understanding using only that understanding then we retreat to a form of condoning. An authentic act is always one which begins from understanding and then .. makes a leap.
The journal that I manage happens to be a journal of revolutionary thinking. I will be the first to admit that much of what has been published therein concludes too soon. Moreover, I will be the first to admit that much of what passes for revolutionary thinking within the journal is pure pretense. But it is not my job to judge it, nor is it to impose upon it with my own agenda. The fact is that an anarchist, like any other subject-position, must learn how to speak two languages: the language of his milieu – a language of acceptance and tolerance – and the language of the event. Given all of this, I nonetheless believe that the time for thinking about the form of the journal prompts me to act in an uncertain direction. I believe that it is an action in the direction of a new world of publishing. But it really is … a leap.
The question which I have raised is: in what way can I live within the moment and find therein a reason to act?
I’ve resolved the conflict into a simple realignment of content and form. Allow me to explain.
Since the inauguration of the journal in 2009, we have consistently published “themed” issues. A themed issue consists of, minimally, (1) a pre-determined topic, (2) an editor who monitors submissions for their ideological coherence (so to speak), and (3) a stunning book-like paperback, and (4) online pdfs. The typical process went something like this: I solicit an editor to take on the task of collecting papers/media on key topics, the editor collects and then brings those papers to me, I do some minimal work to them and then send them to the copy-editor, the copy-editor works in collaboration with the authors and then sends the completed documents to the typesetter, the typesetter completes the images and then sends them to the printer along with the cover, we print and advertise the issue, and then I publish the online version of the issue.
The new model allows “slow” only at the level of the author – indeed, there is always, even within the Empire of Speed, a repressed slowness. The author must work. And work takes time. So while we have the appearance of speed, we nonetheless encourage the slowness of work. Building capitalism took time, and we can not imagine that it will disappear in like speed. At the level of publishing, we praise “fast.” Moreover, we find that the new model of publishing is more consistent with the principles of “anarchist” publishing. Here are some reasons why:
- The new model builds on the previous publishing model by allowing the author to have (almost) complete control over the styling of their document. This means that we do not impose “volume” styling, simply to make our printed books look more consistent.
- The new model accepts articles, peer-reviews, typesets, and publishes (online) immediately as each article is received rather than after a period of waiting for companion pieces (something like this happens at CTheory Journal).
- The new model retroactively determines which themes were “in the air” for the 6 month period which preceded it, and then;
- The new model bounds and prints all of the articles from the 6 months in book form.
- (From time to time we will invite a guest editor to “receive” articles)
In this way, we avoid a number of ethical problems (which are really just problems of consistency vis-a-vis the topic of anarchism), including strict editorial control over the framing of articles/themes that are important at a particular period of history, editorial control over what topics deserve air-time, wait-time (most people, I believe, read a single article when an issue is published – very few care to read an entire journal, since professional journals tend to be quite specialized), etc.
I plan to begin the new model immediately in 2014. The current 2013.2 issues is currently in the copy-editing/typesetting phase and it may very well be the final “theme” issue at ADCS – but hey, I’m open to change.
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.