Sunday, 3 December 2017


In the winter of 2011, Dissent magazine ran a controversial article by Russell Jacoby, professor of history at UCLA, eviscerating a recent book by Erik Olin Wright entitled Envisioning Real Utopias. One of Jacoby’s complaints about Wright’s study was that, in its mission to examine lessons from the experiences of actually-existing ‘utopian’ societies, it failed to mention one particular commune network which had, for most of the 20th century, been widely regarded as the world’s most successful example of such a society. Read on

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Science of Hiking

Harvard physician Paul Dudley White, the ‘father of American cardiology’, believed that a brisk, five mile walk every day is as good a remedy for a restless mind as anything the worlds of medicine and psychology have to offer. Many literary notables, from Charles Dickens to Will Self, have written at length on the restorative effects of their peregrinations through the urban jungle, but as Dr. White well understood, there is something about walking in natural surroundings that no amount of urban wandering can approximate. Read on

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


The figure of the uprooted wanderer has fascinated civilised societies through the ages. There is evidently something about a certain kind of movement— movement with no ostensible aim, direction, purpose or destination — that nags at the sensibilities of the sedentary order. Lack of attachment to any one place makes crossing boundaries and transgressing categories part of the nature of the wanderer, casting him as a bearer of upheaval, arousing suspicion and mistrust.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Zabriskie Point

During visit to the US in 1975, Michel Foucault was persuaded to take a road trip to a remote desert region on the eastern edge of California. When his party reached Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, his host, an assistant professor at Claremont Graduate School, produced several tablets of LSD. Foucault would later describe what followed as "the greatest experience of his life."

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Nazis of Rustic Canyon

A couple of miles’ walk north of Pacific Palisades, entangled in the undergrowth of Rustic Canyon, lie the ruins of one of L.A.’s more peculiar landmarks. All that remains of Murphy Ranch is a series of crumbling, graffiti-daubed concrete foundations, twisted metal, burnt-out shells of abandoned buildings and a distinctly unholy atmosphere. For while the wreckage of yesterday’s industry is no rarity in the hills around the L.A. basin, this is a ruin with a darker history than most.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Nomadic Genes

For 99% of our existence as a species, anthropologists believe, humans have lived as nomadic beings. As we've evolved, settled, become more sedentary and rooted, an impulse towards travel, exploration and novelty has remained in our nature. This instinct has more of a hand in the life choices of some than others, however. One theory as to why this might be, writes David Dobbs in the National Geographic, comes from the field of evolutionary genetics: