Dissent in 2020

Dissent in 2020

Highlights from a year of upheaval.

Cover illustrations by John Michael Snowden and Molly Crabapple

We wanted to share some of our favorite articles from Dissent in 2020.

In our first print issue this year, Democracy and Barbarism, Jedediah Britton-Purdy wove together the crises that had roiled American society long before the coronavirus, both in an article on carbon democracy cowritten with Alyssa Battistoni and a searching discussion with Aziz Rana. Our spring issue featured a section on the contemporary right, brought to you by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell of the Know Your Enemy podcast and historian Lauren Stokes, that featured an insightful forum of ex-conservatives. Our summer issue combined analysis of the pandemic and a crucial U.S. election year. And our fall issue, Technology and the Crisis of Work, featured a collection of timely socialist-feminist essays guest edited by Katrina Forrester and Moira Weigel, including essays about the hustle economy, the new digital piecework, and the global underemployment crisis.

We marched in the streets after the police murder of George Floyd. We talked about how to gain power over the police, and how Black Lives Matter had changed our families’ lives. We looked at the racist assumptions of mainstream economics, and how the field could be reshaped. And we spoke to the utopians and the reformers of the summer uprising.

We took stock of the possible paths forward for the American left amid both the dashed hopes and inspiring struggles of the season. We measured the strengths and weaknesses of movements for tenants, reproductive justice, democratic electoral reform, and, as always, the labor movement (here and here and here and elsewhere). And we debated the lessons of the election for the left going forward.

We also reported on the fear and misery and grief of the pandemic for incarcerated people. We corresponded with a woman trapped in an authoritarian system of solitary confinement. We discussed the many predations of the criminal legal system on the poor and marginalized.

We dove deep into the history of the Latin American far right, held a forum on the crisis in Venezuela, uncovered the roots of the uprising in Chile and the retreat of democracy across Central America, and told the story of Puerto Ricans’ mutual aid efforts in the face of natural disaster and government corruption and neglect. We stood in solidarity with Hong Kongers’ uphill democratic struggle against the Chinese government, and the massive protest movement against the monarchy in Thailand. We charted the consolidation of the right in post-Soviet Poland, openings for the green left in southern France, and the impact of Black Lives Matter in Portugal. And we covered the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria and analyzed the failures of U.S. foreign policy throughout Africa.

We listened closely to the music of Big Thief and John Prine, and mined the hidden depths of the country canon. We noted what a series on Phyllis Schalfy left out, examined Succession’s story of dynastic capitalism, and revisited Claudine, a mostly forgotten gem of 1970s Black working-class cinema. We asked what had sparked recent cultural interest in the Troubles, and a revival of Vivian Gornick’s The Romance of American Communism. We traveled from America’s socialist trail system to the world of MAGA TikTok and the podcasts of relationship guru Esther Perel. We looked at the mythmaking in Obama’s new memoir and surveyed the fiction of ecological disaster, the temp worker, and femicide in Mexico. And in our author interview series Booked, we spoke with E.J. Dionne, Marcia Chatelain, Katrina Forrester, Carolyn Forché, Joe Allen, Stephanie Kelton, Judith Levine and Erica R. Meiners, Thea Riofrancos, and Mike Konczal.

Dissent continued to support podcasts that helped us understand the shifting political tides. Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell of Know Your Enemy have now broadcasted their sharp arguments and insights on the right for over a year. Kate Aronoff and Daniel Aldana-Cohen revived their climate podcast Hot & Bothered for the COVID-19 era. And Dissent’s longest-standing show, Belabored, brought you vital reporting and analysis from workers on the front lines. The co-hosts of the podcast, Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, also wrote dozens of reports rooted in interviews with workers whose lives were upended by the pandemic. These Belabored Stories are an essential record of a tumultuous year.

We also hosted virtual events throughout the year, including launches for each print release and a special series in collaboration with the Democratic Socialists of America based on the ideas and arguments in We Own The Future: Democratic Socialism—American Style, an anthology edited by Kate Aronoff, Michael Kazin, and Peter Dreier. You can find video recordings of all these events on our Facebook page.

Finally, we bid a fond farewell to Michael Kazin, who retired as co-editor of the magazine this fall, and we welcomed Natasha Lewis, who became the first woman to co-edit Dissent, alongside a crop of eight new board members. We also mourned the loss of two long-serving Dissent editorial board members: Herman Benson and David Bensman. And we celebrated the hundredth birthday of Dissent‘s founding editor Irving Howe.

If you enjoyed the articles, podcasts, and virtual events brought to you by Dissent in 2020, you can subscribe or donate to support the magazine in the years to come.

The following are our twenty most-read articles, essays, and interviews in 2020.


  1. What Happened to Kroger’s ‘Hero Pay’?” by Sarah Jaffe
  2. A Possible Majority” by Jedediah Britton-Purdy
  3. Why Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise in the United States” by Peter Dreier
  4. Sephora Makes Plans to Reopen” by Sarah Jaffe
  5. What It Means to Be Liberal” by Michael Walzer
  6. Climate Apartheid Is the Coming Police Violence Crisis” by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò
  7. The Death of Hannah Fizer” by Adam Rothman and Barbara J. Fields
  8. All Shook Up: The Politics of Cultural Appropriation” by Brian Morton
  9. Among the Post-Liberals” by Daniel Luban
  10. All Luck and No Virtue: Sweden’s Coronavirus Response” by Adele Lebano
  11. A Note on Racial Capitalism” by Michael Walzer, with a response by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Liam Kofi Bright
  12. The Court Is Not Your Friend” by Samuel Moyn
  13. The Revolutionary Beethoven” by Chris Wright
  14. Colossus Wears Tweed” by Quinn Slobodian
  15. Social Reproduction and the Pandemic, with Tithi Bhattacharya” by Sarah Jaffe
  16. Nudging Toward Theocracy: Adrian Vermeule’s War on Liberalism” by James Chappel
  17. The Sovereign Fed” by Trevor Jackson
  18. The Pandemic Inside the Only Women’s Maximum-Security Prison in New York” by Lyra Walsh Fuchs
  19. Year One of AMLO’s Mexico” by Humberto Beck, Carlos Bravo Regidor, and Patrick Iber
  20. Monetary Myth-Busting: An Interview with Stephanie Kelton” by Mark Levinson