FROM THE EDITORS

Introducing Breakthrough Journal

The idea for this inaugural issue of the Breakthrough Journal was conceived this past winter, shortly after the death of Daniel Bell, the man with perhaps the best claim to having predicted today's fiscal crisis. In his 1976 Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, the heterodox sociologist argued that rising individuation and declining social solidarity would undermine the social values necessary to sustain liberal democracy. Citizens of developed economies would increasingly reject taxation while demanding new public services, particularly entitlements.

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Modernizing Liberalism

Neither contemporary conservatism nor contemporary liberalism offers a credible path to the kind of economic dynamism and shared prosperity that characterized what has been called the "American Century." In order to revitalize the American dream, members of all political persuasions must address the question of how we can prosper when the basis for our economic renewal is unclear, our willingness to make shared investments in our collective future is waning, and our place in a post-American world is uncertain.

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The Manufacturing of Decline

Popular fears that America is in decline rise and fall with the business cycle. While the American decline after 1945 was in some ways inevitable, the US trade deficit and the significant relative retreat of manufacturing was not. While America is indeed in worrisome straits at the moment, no unprecedented steps are required for America to regain competitiveness. Indeed, America can manufacture its way out of decline.

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Against Cosmopolitanism

The popular conception of globalization is overly simple and misleading. Cosmopolitans believe that the nation-state is destined to wither away because of irresistible technological or economic forces, whether we like it or not. But the trends proffered as evidence of a historic shift toward postnational cosmopolitanism are in fact consistent with the persistence of the nation-state as the main actor in world politics for years to come. Far from being moribund, the nation-state and nationalism are modern -- just as modern as industrialism and urbanism.

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Liberalism and the New Inequality

In our affluent, but unequal society, poverty is a relative, not an absolute condition. High levels of inequality coexist with rising living standards among all Americans. Meanwhile, rising wealth and asset ownership has produced a society in which the fortunes of the poor are increasingly tied to those of the elite. As a result, traditional New Deal social policy is not fit to deal with the current challenges facing a changing America. The sooner we confront these changing structural forces, the sooner we can create a new social contract befitting this new economic age.

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The Trouble with Progressive Economics

Beyond Keynesianism and Neoliberalism

Despite its evident failings, the neoclassical economic doctrine still remains the north star of most economic policy makers. While progressives blame right wing media outlets, in truth, the persistence of neoclassical ideology owes as much to the failings of the Left as it does to the successes of the Right. Keynesianism, the purported progressive solution, has failed to come to terms with the realities of the globalized, innovation-powered, 21st century economy in which we live. The reality is that neither neoclassical economics nor Keynesianism is fit to deal with America's present economic crisis.

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Daniel Bell’s Prophecy

Almost forty years ago, before the Reagan Revolution and the end of welfare as we know it, the heterodox sociologist Daniel Bell predicted that America would grapple with the question of taxation for decades to come. Rising individuation and decreasing solidarity would produce a society increasingly reliant on entitlements and increasingly disinclined to pay taxes. As a result, Bell argued, "A new public philosophy will have to be created in order that something we recognize as a liberal society may survive."

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An Environmental Journalist’s Lament

In the fall of 2006, honey bees began dying in strange and unsettling ways. Scientists named the phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" and journalists quickly began to point to pesticides as the likely culprit. With the benefit of time, it has become clear that the story was a lot more complicated than that. But the rush to judgment and the end-of-days narratives it spawned should serve as a cautionary tale for environmental journalists eager to write the next blockbuster story of environmental decline.

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Punk and Possibility

When the Beatles and the Stones and Dylan ruled the earth, it was easy to hear the influence of artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley -- the next generation of stars sounded a bit like, and paid homage to, those who came before. But by the mid-1970s, the old, linear pattern of influence in rock began to break down. Punk was just as influenced by what it didn't want to be as it was by what it did want to be.

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