This is a special issue of Arena Magazine — a double issue, marking the magazine’s 100th issue, and leading, in our next issue, to the first in Arena’s ‘third series’ of publications under the Arena banner. Arena, the quarterly, first went to press in 1963, a whole era ago, when the issues, problems and possibilities of the time were distinctly different. Born in the period of the Cold War and the beginning of the break-up of many of that era’s political formations, Arena was a place for the publication of a wide range of views to the Left of politics and an early commentator on the emergent New Left and social movement politics of the 60s and 70s.
However, and crucially, a common thread of interpretation has been present throughout. More or less evident in the arena of views presented in our pages, Arena editors have been intent on coming to grips with the features of ‘late capitalism’ or, as we prefer, the form of life engendered in the ambiguous conjunction of the life-changing technosciences with capitalist development. As reiterated in the following editorial statement, and as in Geoff Sharp’s essay in this issue, just what a left practice might be today, whether an adequately oppositional approach can even be fully expressed in these terms, is a central, ongoing question as our culture and its range of institutions undergo such massive changes as evident over the past several decades, and especially the last.
In 1992, having spent a good part of the 80s attempting to come to grips with the momentous changes just beginning within the universities — both institutionally and in the rise to prominence of various forms of post-linguistic-turn analysis — the Arena editors launched Arena Magazine and Arena Journal. The split was intended to cater to two facets of a responsibility the editors felt at that time. The new Arena Magazine would provide a place for fairly immediate commentary in a bimonthly format on Australian politics, society and culture, in various styles of writing and artistic representation, with commentary also on key international issues. After two decades of the Arena co-operative printing its own publication on letterpress technology, the magazine, printed in our Melbourne printery on offset presses, allowed much greater flexibility of layout and visual presentation. Arena Journal became the place for scholarly analysis dedicated to working through the deeper interpretive issues that were emerging in the period of globalisation and its neo-liberal political formations.
Since the launch of Arena Magazine in 1992 there have been a number of editors and editorial teams that have worked far beyond the call of duty to bring out a bi-monthly, with no external funding, essentially on a volunteer basis. The present editors wish to acknowledge their tremendous commitment, hard work and creativity. The magazine has also depended on the advice and assistance of Board members, consulting editors and interstate editors over the years and on a large group of friends and volunteers who attend our mail-outs. We also wish to thank our contributors, both writers and artists, who go unpaid, and whose generosity, through the free publication of their work, is fully appreciated.
With the launch of the present issue, a number of changes have been set in train. We bring Arena Magazine no. 100 to you in a new design, thanks to the generous creative contribution of two young colleagues who make up Hypergraphia, and the new look and feel of a now properly ‘green’ magazine, through the good advice and expert printing of Arena Printing, now a fully FSC-accredited green printer.
In 2009, with this 100th issue, the new-look Arena Magazine intends to continue Arena’s long-time commitment to interpreting the contemporary culture and pointing to possibilities for change. But we also see something new in the present. As our colleague Leunig suggests, there are cracks opening up everywhere. What other reality might they reveal? At first perhaps many more horrors than we have been prepared to see in our comfortable Western worlds; and then perhaps paths to other places, more considered values, a sense of who and what ‘human being’ is and should be, what the real enemies are to a decent life and meaning for all? These and other themes are taken up in abundance in this issue of Arena Magazine.
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First published in Arena Magazine, issue 100.