Book Forum

We are launching an ambitious Open Access eBook Publishing Project  to accompany Praxis 13/13! The Open Access eBook manuscript we are putting on-line today is “An Answer to the Question: ‘What Is To Be Done?’” and can be accessed freely and openly here:

The question “What is to be done?” is at the heart of our Praxis 13/13 series and it is too pressing to address within conventional publishing timeframes, so I am taking the somewhat unprecedented route of publishing an open review access copy of a first draft of a book manuscript. It is called Critique & Praxis: A Pure Theory of Illusions, Values, and Tactics, and An Answer to the Question: “What Is To Be Done?” [A First Draft].

The open access eBook manuscript is on a special Open Review platform that allows anyone to read on-line and annotate and comment on the book manuscript, or to download a PDF version. It is a platform that was invented by Matthew Salganik at Princeton University and designed by the Agathon Group in Michigan.

The fact is, the digital age is transforming temporality. The speed of political, economic, and social life is accelerating. The financial world now operates on fractions of milliseconds. The news and media revolve on hourly cycles. World-historic political judgments are being taken, impulsively, in the middle of the night, and simultaneously broadcast on Twitter. We have entered a head-spinning age of politics.

And yet critical thinking and writing are lagging behind by months, sometimes by years. By the time our critical analyses are published, the political situation has already changed, and we’ve entered another crisis period. This is due, in part, to the fact that we remain wedded to antiquated processes of scholarly communication and publishing; and also, in part, to outdated norms of reputation, promotion, and tenure in the academy. The result is that critical thinking is getting lapped and is increasingly irrelevant.

This open review digital publication project is intended to be a corrective. The ambition is to get critical ideas out into public debate in an accelerated way to keep up or, better yet, to overtake the new temporality of politics in the digital age.

On the website of the book manuscript, you will be able to read and comment directly on a punctual first draft of a book manuscript addressing the most critical question in politics today: “What is to be done?” I intend to publish a revised and corrected version of this manuscript with a university press as a book as soon as possible. I am proceeding with this digital edition, however, without a publisher at this point, in order to avoid any delay whatsoever in having the political conversation that we need to have today. The goal is to think critically and debate first, in order to address the important political questions now, and then worry, later, about academic matters.

Digital technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to reconfigure intellectual exchange and to renew and rejuvenate critical writing, editing, and publishing for a new age. I hope you will join me in this effort. And we at the CCCCT will support others who would like to pioneer in this area as well and who share the ambition for timely critical exchange and communication.

I hope you will treat this digital book project with the generosity of spirit and collegiality with which it is born. The book manuscript is effectively in a beta stage. Please excuse any errors and potential glitches in the software! Please join us in this project!

—Bernard E. Harcourt, New York, September 12, 2018