No Future for You: Salvos from The Baffler

John Summers, Chris Lehmann, Thomas Frank (eds)
Baffler Books and MIT Press, 2014, 392 pp.

In the wake of the urgency surrounding the subprime crisis and the occupy movements, radical left-wing magazine, The Baffler, was reanimated to continue its self-assigned mission to "blunt the cutting edge“. No Future for You: Salvos from the Baffler offers a selection of essays addressing the vested machinations of political, economic and cultural power in the United States at the denouement of the American century.

The Baffler began in the late 1980s as a counterattack against the invasion of a cool, corporate culture into broader society. The baton has been picked up with contributions such as John Summers 'The People's Republic of Zuckerstan’ and Thomas Frank’s ‘Dead End on Shakin’ Street’, both critiquing how the innovation driven ethos of the new creative economy has usurped civic priorities. In a climate where new waves of gentrification are rising from the wreckages of the subprime crisis, both essays demonstrate in different ways how class in America is being reaffirmed through real estate and a normative managerial culture.

Rhonda Lieberman writes scathingly about corporate art collecting in ‘Hoard d’Oeuvres: Art of the 1 Percent’. Citing Walter Benjamin’s oft quoted phrase, “There is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism“, Lieberman recasts the newly opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, as surplus value concretised from the savings garnered through paying sub-standard wages in her family’s big box stores.

No Future for You unashamedly brandishes a zealous social justice rhetoric, advocating for the public good over private interests. But rhetoric cuts both ways and occasionally building a good story becomes an over-riding priority. A case in point is Susan Faludi’s “Facebook Feminism“ which, while raising excellent points on the limited efficacy of Sheryl Sandberg’s brand of “one-percenter“ feminism, also focuses too much on trying to paint it as a cult-like movement. However, the contributions in No Future for You mostly hit their marks; witty, critical and sick of the bullshit.

Andrew Varano is a writer, artist and curator from Perth, Western Australia.