The Baffler is a journal of art and criticism appearing every March, June, and October. It’s edited by John Summers with Thomas Frank and Chris Lehmann, published in print and digital formats by MIT Press, delivered to subscribers in all fifty U.S. States, Canada, and Europe, and distributed to fine book stores everywhere.
The epigraph stamped on Baffler 1, from Arthur Rimbaud’s “Morning of Drunkenness,” introduced it as a punk literary journal. It was 1988, and founders Thomas Frank and Keith White were students at the University of Virginia. Three years later, The Baffler moved to Chicago. Thomas Frank moved into the role of Editor in Chief and oversaw 17 more issues, plus two anthologies, Commodify Your Dissent: The Business of Culture in the New Gilded Age (1997) and Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy (2003).
The subject was big business—the way it talked to itself, the dogmas it generated in culture, the pathologies it produced in politics—but it was The Baffler’s high-toned satire that made it the most influential journal of the nineties. Most left-wing journals, then and now, offer wonkery, moralism, dialectical obfuscation, and other forms of boredom. The Baffler offered comic juxtapositions that suggested criticism could be a literary art, and drew in readers who did not typically read journals.
In May 2011, John Summers purchased The Baffler on behalf of The Baffler Foundation, moved headquarters to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and took over as editor in chief. Summers then signed a contract with MIT Press that ended the journal’s irregular publishing history. The contract ensures publication through 2016 while also guaranteeing the independence of its editors, writers, and artists.