Published in October 1995 issue of Prospect Magazine
Welcome to Prospect. A new publication requires an explanation, even a justification. Surely there is already an over-supply of news and opinion for all tastes and wallets. Well, not quite. Prospect, a monthly magazine aimed at the intellectually curious, non-specialist reader, will occupy that large space between the “instant” and the “academic.” Many people regard this space as a black hole for publishing ambitions, but their economics are out of date and their cultural pessimism unjustified. The British are no less interested in ideas, in the well-written discursive essay, and in intellectual and editorial rigour, than the hundreds of thousands of Americans who buy monthlies such as this.
In any case, it is a propitious moment to launch a serious magazine. The “end of history” has left in its wake a more opaque world, and even good newspapers and magazines find it difficult to grapple with its complexities. Standing back from the scrum, Prospect will offer a different rhythm, an alternative journalistic “time,” and a home for those writers who can see further than the rest of us.
Detecting and describing the underlying patterns of contemporary life requires not just more words but more reflection than daily or even weekly deadlines allow. For many who need to be well-informed time is too short for all those news snippets. Prospect will be more nourishing, combining the stimulation of high-class polemic (Essays) with lucid “overview” for the hopelessly busy (Briefings). Such long pieces are the backbone of the magazine. But Prospect will be read in the bathroom as well as the boardroom. Shorter pieces—reportage, interviews, curiosities, and plain old surprises—will leaven the mix: we will be serious but never solemn.
There is, nonetheless, a hard-edged tone to some of our first issue— in particular to Aleksa Djilas’ pessimism about ethnicity and nationalism in central and eastern Europe. A gentler, world-weary note is struck by RW Johnson on the eternal cycles of British politics. We also have pieces to raise the spirits, perhaps even a laugh. Some of our writers you will already know and some, like Jeremy Clarke, you will discover. Our themes are big: Amartya Sen contests the view that political authoritarianism is economically efficient. And they are small: Ann Barr meets cockroach eaters.
Prospect, too, will be omnivorous in its interests, as well as pluralistic in its politics. We will establish a British-European identity and attract many of the best writers from continental Europe.True to our location—an electronic garret in London’s Bloomsbury—our underlying tone will be an outward-looking optimism: a belief that the world may be complex and inhospitable, but is nevertheless knowable and improveable. We will, of course, offer space to contrary temperaments and to good writing from wherever it comes in the political spectrum. Read us, write for us, but above all subscribe to us.