July 6, 2009
NEW LIBERAL ARTS: Get It Tomorrow
A project that began earlier this year now bears fruit: slim, rectangular fruit.
New Liberal Arts, a Snarkmarket/Revelator Press collabo, is 80 pages long, with 21 pitches for new liberal arts from some of the smartest minds we could find. The pitches range from attention economics to video literacy; you are gonna love what you find in this book.
It goes on sale tomorrow at 9 a.m. PST, so be sure to check in early—there are only 200 copies. Each one is $8.99. The idea is that after we sell those, we’ll release the PDF, so when you buy a book, you’re also buying a little slice of free for everybody. Or something like that.
But bear in mind: New Liberal Arts has a secret—one that can only be unlocked out there in the world of atoms and new-book-smell, not here in the world of pixels and PDFs.
To warm you up, we’ll be posting a few new liberal arts this week. It breaks my heart, because they look so lame here on the blog, without Brandon Kelley’s wonderful design—but I do want to give you a taste.
The first, micropolitics, is from Matt. He was the most prolific contributor to this book, with 3.5 entries to his credit, and I have to tell you, each one is an E.B. White-worthy gem—compact, lucid, thought-provoking. I’d pay the cover price for his contributions alone.
You can probably name your head of state, your chief minister of defense, and the main branches of your federal government. But do you know the name of your city manager? The head of your neighborhood association? The neighbor who hasn’t missed a city council meeting since the 1970s?
So much of the texture of everyday life is hashed out in obscure municipal backchannels, by small groups of engaged citizens getting together on week-day evenings. The buildings you see every day, the restaurants you dine at, the closing time of your neighborhood bar, the bus routes to and from your
home—these things are the way they are because of a complex system of professional networks and planning meetings that few have the know-how to navigate. When the spare change and free time of millions of people can elect a U.S. President, we’ve entered a new era of civics built not on institutions, but on individuals.
This is micropolitics, and it affects more than places. The particulars of health care plans that will affect millions are being drawn up by civil servants in remote corners of government, while a quietly influential elite adds loopholes and kickbacks over expensive dinners. Masters of micropolitics will learn to find these nodes of civic influence and ensure that the best ideas get a place at the table.
Learning micropolitics doesn’t just mean learning how to draw an org chart for a city or a neighborhood or an issue. It means learning how to improve that org chart. It means learning the practical art of organizing small groups of people to make noise, apply pressure, or elect someone. It’s about finding the small changes that have big effects in the life of a community.
As they say, all politics is micro.