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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Discover Society or the Strange Birth, Death and Rebirth of New Society

Discover Society is a new online "magazine" devoted to the social sciences. It looks interesting and definitely worth keeping an eye on. The pitch seems to be to the gap in the market  vacated by New Society.

Like many people of my generation I can say that New Society is one of the reasons why I chose to study sociology as an undergraduate. The sixth-form at my school subscribed to both New Scientist and New Society (New Statesman and The Spectator were ruled out as too political)  and it was the latter that grabbed my attention. I also had the great luck to be taught in General Studies lessons by the incomparably inspiring Helena Ranson who regularly used New Society articles as an introduction to a class discussion.

The story of New Society though contains a number of ironies. It was set up and  in the early years bankrolled by Maxwell Raison the publisher of New Scientist. His son, Timothy, later a Conservative MP, was the first editor. From the off it was rigorously non-partisan. The magazine only really began to make any money when the advertising revenues rolled in - remember the pages and pages of job advertisements at the back all in some way related to the expanding welfare-state and the post Robbins higher education boom?

Yes, there was great social science journalism - not all of it  written by university social scientists - but what payed the bills was the advertising and the circulation built on the back of it. And, irony of irony, what killed it was the Guardian's decision to include once a week it's own supplement devoted to social issues. Advertisers switched in droves to the daily, New Society's advertising revenue dwindled and surely as night follows day so did it's circulation. 

So New Society was from the first the creation of a one nation Tory  with a rich daddy and eventually strangled by the liberal left's favourite daily. You couldn't make it up.

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