So: the William Morris Society is advertising for a new editor for its journal. My feeling, however, is that matters are actually the other way round: it needs a new journal for its editor. So here is a proposal for a Society journal that would be contemporary rather than historical, political rather than antiquarian – and thus, in my view, much truer to the spirit of Morris himself.
Let’s borrow Morris’s title of his 1888 lecture collection and call the new journal, provisionally, Signs of Change: Journal of Contemporary Culture and Politics, to kick off in 2016. It would then divide up its field of concerns into three, roughly equally weighted sections. So 33% would address the issue of Morris in contemporary culture (currently, e.g., Deller’s Morris-Abramovich image and its political aesthetics, or the Oxford Morris-Warhol exhibition, as a way of posing questions about Morris and postmodernism). The second 33% would focus on contemporary utopianism and dystopianism, both practitioners (in literary, architectural, visual and cinematic arts) and theorists (Jameson, Bloch, Levitas, Moylan).
The third 33% tranche would tackle concerns of the contemporary Left, broadly conceived (i.e. green, feminist and anti-globalisation as well as socialist): analysis of changes in capitalism, exposition of important theorists (return of communist thinking in Badiou and Zizek, say), transformations of working practices, survey of important international political developments, examination of current initiatives in the UK (Left Unity, for instance) – so this section would be doing some of the work that Morris’s socialist newspaper Commonweal used to do.
The reviews section of the new journal would be organised on a similar tripartite model. The only way historical work on Morris would get in is if someone used his writings or activities to draw cultural and/or political lessons for our twenty-first-century present. I’d be inclined to cap essays at 3000 words to ensure both a range of coverage and that they don’t become too academic. A recomposition of the editorial board, with some more overtly political people, would be necessary to make this work. I commend the idea to you!