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Wed, 11.10.1954

Dissent Magazine is Published

Dissent magazine

*This date, in 1954, celebrates Dissent magazine’s publication. This publication is an American Left intellectual magazine edited by Natasha Lewis and Timothy Shenk.

The University of Pennsylvania Press publishes the magazine on behalf of the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas. A group of New York Intellectuals established the magazine. Its co-founder and publisher for its first 15 years were University Place Book Shop owner Walter Goldwater. From its inception, Dissent's politics deviated from the standard ideological positions of the left and right.  

Dissent sought to formulate a third position between the liberalism of the West and the communism of the East. Troubled by the rampant bureaucratization of capitalist and communist society, Dissent was home to writers like C. Wright Mills and Paul Goodman, who identified themselves as radical democrats, and editors like Irving Howe and Michael Harrington, more closely identified with democratic socialism.

Over its seven decades in publication, it has also become an influential venue for social and cultural criticism, publishing political philosophers, including Cornel West and Iris Marion Young, as well as novelists and poets. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dissent's skepticism toward Third World revolutions and the culture of the New Left occasionally isolated it from student movements, but its commitment to both pluralist and egalitarian politics—in particular, when it came to social and civil rights issues—separated it from both the mainstream liberalism and the growing neoconservative movement.

Although Dissent still identifies with the democratic socialism of its founders, its editors and contributors represent a broad spectrum of left positions: from Black History to Marxist humanism to social democratic revisionism and radical feminism. In the 2010s, several of its younger editors identified themselves with the heterodox Marxism and visions of radical democracy espoused by Occupy Wall Street. Together with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Dissent announced its Archive project. It will be digitizing several short-lived literary magazines, including Marxist Perspectives and Democracy, and providing access to them online.

It also recently launched a labor podcast and introduced a new front-of-the-book section dedicated to publishing cultural criticism. Former co-editors include Irving Howe, Mitchell Cohen, Michael Walzer, and David Marcus.

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