Editorial: A Juncture retrospective

Published Wed 5 Apr 2017
This is the last time you’ll see Juncture in this format and under this masthead. The next issue will have a new editorial team, a different name – the IPPR Progressive Review – and a wider range of features, and will look and feel very different, with greater use of illustration and an entirely revamped digital offer. What won’t change, however, is what makes Juncture special – a space for brilliant and varied writing that tries to make sense of a changing world and develop alternative and progressive accounts of the future.
Juncture 23.4: Spring 2017

Juncture was established in the aftermath of the financial crisis and Great Recession to be a progressive but ecumenical journal – a place for debate and discussion for liberals, social democrats, socialists and, sometimes, conservatives too. Its primary purpose was to contribute to the project of rethinking progressive politics and public policy in the post-crisis world. With notable exceptions, the political parties of the left and centre-left, and their associated thinkers, had not seen the financial crisis coming. Nor were they prepared for its aftermath. Intellectually and politically, they were on the back foot. The long boom had ended in a crash, and many of the conceptual tools that had been used to refashion European social democracy and American liberalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall were rusty and blunt. Some, such as the understanding of the financial sector and its regulation, had proved to be weapons of self-immolation. New thinking was needed.

Juncture set out to be interdisciplinary, with a mission to publish political philosophers, historians, political scientists, economists, and intellectuals from a host of other disciplines. It was a place for engagement between different schools of thought – such as between the self-consciously heterodox and the neo-classical in economics – as well as between disciplines. It sought to provide a bridge between academia, politics and civil society. Its contemporary focus meant that it did not ask contributors to labour long in endless peer reviews, but to bring their insights on issues of the day to a wide, engaged audience.

Juncture also tried to be internationalist in outlook and scope, determinedly not parochial or restricted to the concerns of Anglospheric policy circles. It carried pieces on Indian, Turkish, Brazilian, Chinese and South African politics and more, while also publishing French, German and other European academics. It is proud to have published Jürgen Habermas, Ngaire Woods, Vivien Schmidt, Pierre Rosanvallon, Thomas Piketty and Wolfgang Streeck, among others. While it challenged the arguments made for Brexit, it enthusiastically published essays advocating reform of the European Union, particularly the eurozone. Its editors believe that Britain must remain part of the European Republic of Letters.

Juncture has also consistently covered the changing politics of the United Kingdom. Its very first lead essay was by the historian Colin Kidd, charting how Scotland shaped the 1707 Act of Union with England to secure its interests, just as contemporary Scotland geared up for its first referendum on independence. Now Scotland faces another referendum on independence, this time precipitated by Brexit. Juncture has also sought to chart the rise of the new politics of Englishness, through essays and interviews from Michael Kenny, Linda Colley and others, and Irish politics, with original contributions from Sophie Whiting, Roy Foster and Heather Jones. The centrifugal forces of Brexit have made the United Kingdom look more fragile than ever before.

The crash blew a large hole in the centre-left’s economic statecraft, which, in the UK at least, had become too dependent in the pre-crisis years on a strong central state and tax-funded redistribution to deliver social justice. Much work remains to be done on crafting an alternative economic account of the future, yet Juncture sought to provide a space for new thinking on the fundamentals of our economy. From Andrew Gamble charting a course away from an unstable and unequal neoliberalism, to Tony Atkinson’s persuasive and morally compelling programme to challenge inequality, to the work of Lane Kenworthy, Heather Boushey and Adair Turner, among others, the journal provided a space for the best of new economic thinking.

Juncture closes its doors on bleak times for progressive politics. Reactionary and nationalist forces are in the ascendancy across the West, and in much of the rest of the world. The financial crisis did not lead to a shift leftward; instead, the right regrouped and renewed.

Yet there are seeds of hope. Elections in the European Union in 2017, particularly in France and Germany, may show that the nationalist and nativist surge has passed its high-water mark. Learning from the right, the left could also get better at forging alliances for government: the success of the socialists in Portugal, governing with popular support from a minority position, might be a harbinger of the future. This is thin gruel, however, and it is vital that progressives properly confront the depth and causes of their weakness in the years ahead if they are to recover.

However, Juncture has shown that there is intellectual fertility in progressive politics. In political philosophy, we have published the groundbreaking work of Elizabeth Anderson, Bonnie Honig, Theda Skocpol and Roberto Unger. Each in their different ways has shown how a democratic, active and political egalitarianism can be developed for post-democratic or even post-truth times. It has published indispensable pieces by Colin Crouch, Will Davies, Ann Pettifor, Claus Offe, Fritz Scharpf, Jan-Werner Müller, Kathleen Thelen and Helen Thompson, as well as Streeck and Piketty, on rethinking political economy, the need for which remains vital. Convinced of the need to inform contemporary politics with modern history and the history of political thought, it has published Margaret MacMillan, Quentin Skinner, Jon Lawrence, Robert Gildea and Ram Guha. And on British politics, it has benefitted over the years from the penetrating insights of David Runciman, Gavin Kelly, Tim Bale, Vernon Bogdanor and – most of all – a regular column from the godfather of British psephology, John Curtice.

The Juncture editorial team also want sincerely to thank Will Paxton, one of the first co-editors and creators of Juncture; Tim Finch, who put in many hours getting Juncture published; and Mark Ballinger and Ross Fulton, who between them produced the best covers of any journal in British politics and public policy. IPPR looks forward to welcoming readers of Juncture back in the summer, with a revamped and expanded journal that squarely faces the crisis confronting progressives, so that we can better find our way out.

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