By any reasonable measure, the neoliberal dream lies in tatters. In 2008 poorly regulated financial markets yielded a world-historic financial collapse. One generation, weaned on reveries of home ownership as the coveted badge of economic independence and old-fashioned American striving, has been plunged into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and worse. And a successor generation of aspiring college students is now discovering that their equally toxic student-loan dossiers are condemning them to lifetimes of debt.
Hey, it’s our play issue, in which David Graeber hopscotches over the robotic universe of contemporary science and winds up inventing a new law of reality. Barbara Ehrenreich calls for a science that can explain why fun is fun. John Summers reports from “The People’s Republic of Zuckerstan”—once known as the liberal community of Cambridge, Massachusetts, now a playground for startup science and tech professionals. Gene Seymour rescues science fiction from the warped real-world utopias of certain plutocratic cybervisionaries. Andrew Bacevich dances on the grave of Tom Clancy, the recently departed hack thriller writer. Ian Bogost analyzes the addiction economy lurking behind cutting-edge free-to-play videogames, while Rhonda Lieberman walks us through the trophy rooms of leisure-class art hoarders.
And that’s only the half of it. Look here for head-spinning salvos by Chris Lehmann, Susan Faludi, William T. Vollmann, George Scialabba, and Heather Havrilesky on history, politics, feminism, and literature. Anne Elizabeth Moore makes sport of Vice magazine. Alex Pareene practices journalism on the New York Times’ DealBook. Fiction by Paul Maliszewski and J. Wagner; short prose by Jaron Lanier, Gabriel Zaid, and Erik Simon; poetry by Thomas Sayers Ellis; and hilarious graphic art by Brad Holland, Mark Dancey, and David McLimans, who gave us the cover. Not to win or lose the game, but to be free of the system of winners and losers—that’s the spirit.
Among the hacks who staff our factories of conventional wisdom, evidence abounds that we are living in a golden age of political comedy. The New York Times nominates Jon Stewart, beloved host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, as the “most trusted man in America.” His protégé, Stephen Colbert, enjoys the sort of slavish media coverage reserved for philanthropic rock stars. . . . Stewart and Colbert, in particular, have assumed the role of secular saints whose nightly shtick restores sanity to a world gone mad.