Jacobin is a quarterly magazine and online media platform founded in 2011 by Bhaskar Sunkara. In the magazine's introductory piece, he said Jacobin writers were "loosely bound by common values and sentiments:
- As proponents of modernity and the unfulfilled project of the Enlightenment
- As asserters of the libertarian quality of the socialist ideal
- As internationalists and epicureans"
The magazine self-describes as "a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture." Noam Chomsky, who has written several pieces for the publication, complemented the magazine for its "penetrating, lively discussions and analyses of matters of real significance, from a thoughtful left perspective that is refreshing and all too rare."
According to various pages on its website as of September 2019, Jacobin has an average print run of 36,000 magazines, has around 40,000 subscribers, and receives between 1.2 and 1.5 million monthly website visitors. As of this same time, the magazine's Twitter account had over 215,000 followers and its Facebook page had over 336,000 followers.
News and Controversy
In 2017, Jacobin began releasing a quarterly journal called Catalyst, with the introductory statement "It is Catalyst’s purpose to provoke and contribute to a collaborative effort to understand today’s political world in order to assist the struggles to change it. To that end, its fundamental task is to promote wide-ranging discussion and to organize debate on the urgent questions facing the working class, the emergent mass movements, and radical and socialist political organizations."
Content of Articles
Class vs. Identity
Several Jacobin articles engage with the conception that the "Hillary Clinton/establishment" wing of the Democratic party is primarily focused on identity (such as race and gender) while the "Bernie Sanders/democratic socialist" wing primarily focuses on class politics (working class vs. capitalist class) at the expense of identity.
Many articles argue that class should take a more central focus than race, gender, and other identities, calling for interracial working-class solidarity against capitalist oppression and arguing "it is impossible to make substantial progress in addressing the crushing burden of non-class-based oppressions in American life without taking on the power of capital."
In one interview, Walter Benn Michaels, author of The Problem with Diversity, laid out the way he believes a focus on diversity obscures widening income inequality, saying "there isn’t a single US corporation that doesn’t have an HR office committed to respecting the differences between cultures, to making sure that your culture is respected whether or not your standard of living is.... the rule in neoliberal economies is that the difference between the rich and the poor gets wider rather than shrinks [and] it’s basically OK if economic differences widen as long as the increasingly successful elites come to look like the increasingly unsuccessful non-elites."
Another article similarly argued that programs run by capitalist institutions cannot adequately address the root causes of racial or gender-based problems, claiming "liberal programs for antiracism so easily devolve into things like bias training and corporate diversity initiatives, which do little to attack entrenched inequalities."
Another set of articles explores the ways in which arguments made from the standpoint of diversity seek to silence the aims of democratic socialists (also referred to as "the Left").
Another highlighted the failure of establishment Democrats to protect U.S. Rep. Ihlan Omar despite spending, "the Trump administration celebrating women’s defiant voices in politics, urging others to listen and believe women, and making the defense of immigrants a key plank of the party, while valorizing black women and their pivotal electoral role." This article claimed the "Clinton = diversity/Sanders = class" dichotomy was false, as mainstream Democrats seemed to only value identity when it supported what they already believed. After Omar's comments critical of AIPAC lobbying, "the party and its prominent loyalists instead quickly joined the right-wing pile-on against Omar, to the point of putting offensive, racist words in her mouth that she never actually said. In some cases, the same people who jumped to criticize her and silence her voice had previously expressed platitudes about women and girls persevering against adversity, and black women being the party’s backbone."
After author and journalist Ta-Nehesi Coates criticized Sanders for his stance on reparations, professor Cedric Johnson wrote a lengthy piece defending the benefits of class-based policies, saying "towering mid-twentieth-century liberal and radical left intellectuals and activists such as A. Philip Randolph, John P. Davis, Esther Cooper Jackson, John Jackson, Bayard Rustin, and scores of others would have found themselves quite at odds with Coates’s liberal antiracist viewpoint that working-class-centered, anticapitalist political projects are patently inadequate for addressing the concerns of black voters." Johnson also criticized the belief that a "black businessman who competes for government contracts and keeps a summer home and a single mother of three who relies on the Section 8 voucher program and itinerant minimum-wage employment to make ends meet share the same political interests by virtue of their common heritage and the experience of living in a racist society." Johnson has written several pieces about how class-based politics are necessary for ending the oppression of African-Americans.
- Daniel Lazare, "Jacobin Is Fueling the Lies About Syria", Truthdig, February 2, 2018, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Uday Jain, "White Marxism: A Critique of Jacobin Magazine", New Socialist, August 11, 2017, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Jonathan Chait, "100 Years After the Bolshevik Revolution, Communism Hasn’t Changed", New York Magaine, June 28, 2017, accessed September 25, 2019.
Jacobin is funding in part by advertisements in "print, web and audio formats." According to its website, past advertisers have included "Duke University Press, SAGE Publications, Verso Books, n+1 magazine, Haymarket Books, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, OR Books, University of Pennsylvania, New Left Review, and Monthly Review Press."
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- Robert P. Baird, "The ABC's of Jacobin", Columbia Journalism Review, January 2, 2019, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Dylan Matthews, "Inside Jacobin", Vox, March 21, 2016, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Caroline O'Donovan, "Jacobin: A Marxist rag run on a lot of petty-bourgeois hustle", Nieman Lab, September 16, 2014, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Jennifer Schuessler, "A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream", New York Times, January 20, 2013, accessed September 10, 2019. (subscription needed)
- Bhaskar Sunkara, "Introducing Jacobin", Jacobin, January 2011, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin, About, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin, Noam Chomsky, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin, Jeremy Corbyn, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin, Advertise, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Twitter, Jacobin, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Facebook, Jacobin Magazine, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Robert Brenner, "Introducing Catalyst", Catalyst, Spring 2017, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin Radio, "Jacobin Radio is Here", Jacobin, January 31, 2017, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Stitcher, Jacobin Radio, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Roger Lancaster, "Identity Politics Can Only Get Us So Far", Jacobin, August 1, 2017, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Melissa Naschek, "The Identity Mistake", Jacobin, August 28, 2018, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Eric Blanc and Jeremy Gong, "How Class Should Be Central", Jacobin, November 21, 2018, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Paul Heideman, "Class Rules Everything Around Me", Jacobin, May 3, 2019, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Walter Benn Michaels, "Let Them Eat Diversity", Jacobin, January 1, 2011, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Matt Bruenig, Liberals and Diversity, Jacobin, March 17, 2017, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Branko Marcetic, "Actually, the Democrats Don’t Care About Identity", Jacobin, March 9, 2019, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Cedric Johnson, "An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Liberals Who Love Him", Jacobin, February 3, 2016, accessed September 10, 2019.
- Jacobin, Cedric Johnson, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.