This is the 200th issue of Prospect since it was born in October 1995. It’s nearly two years since I became editor, taking over from David Goodhart, the magazine’s founder, now its editor at large. We’re read by more people than ever, growing fast across the English-speaking world, with many digital readers and contributors, and a record number of entries to our international think tank awards. Our strength remains the same: the exploration, at length, of the most important ideas and arguments shaping the future.
The themes have shifted, though; it’s been a long 17 years. Prospect was conceived in the spirit that brought Tony Blair to power—taking a fresh look at how to run a modern democracy, with the conviction that no single political party had a monopoly of answers. It was a time when the “rich” world felt rich. Since then, the US’s misjudged wars, the crash of 2008, and debts and deficits, have rocked confidence in democracy and markets.
Our most influential articles this year have answered these questions—although not by agreeing with each other. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, attracted global attention with his criticism of markets in “Modern Babylon,” as did our roundtable with Paul Krugman on the austerity debate. John Kay and Richard Lambert have stirred up argument on the crisis in capitalism, as have Bill Emmott and George Soros, and Dahlia Lithwick and Diane Roberts on US gridlock, while Ruth Franklin and Adam Kirsch have explored how America’s fiction reflects its new anxiety. Elizabeth Pisani on Indonesia, the “make-believe nation,” and Ramachandra Guha’s account of India’s crippled government pursued the same themes on a grand scale.
In Britain, our report on the collapse in public support for welfare kicked off a debate which changed all parties’ calculations. Our reports on Boris Johnson’s ambitions and UKIP’s inroads into the Tory vote were prescient. Recent months have seen some of our most widely read pieces: Mark Kitto’s account of leaving China; the declaration by the former UK ambassador to Israel that “There may never be peace” in the Middle East, and Richard Dawkins on evolution.
This month, our writers advise on how to oust Hugo Chávez, rewrite Germany’s constitution and judge whether the US recovery will continue. Robert Fry, recording the long romance with elite military forces, asks whether politicians are wrong about the wars of the future. Peter Kellner, in a significant new poll, argues that political allegiance is no longer based clearly on class.
This isn’t a picture of gloom; there are answers, if not easy ones. Our writers show the capacity for change in the most difficult predicaments. At Eric Hobsbawm’s funeral in London in October (see the tribute to the Marxist historian), his son said that his father (who died aged 95) had wanted to live even longer to “take in more of what was happening in the world, and to get more of what was in his mind out into the world.” That aim—of both observation and influence—is, not just for writers, an honourable principle by which to live.