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Boston Review Magazine

4 issues per year View Reviews   |   Write Review From $9.75 per issue Founded in 1975, Boston Review is a non-profit, reader-supported political and literary magazine—a public space for discussion of ideas and culture. We put a range of voices and views in dialogue on the web (without paywalls or commercial ads) and in print (four times a year)—covering lots of ground from politics and philosophy to poetry, fiction, book reviews, and criticism. One premise ties it all together: that a flourishing democracy depends on public discussion and the open exchange of ideas.

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Boston Review  |  Uncertainty  


Nearly two years into a global pandemic, uncertainty has profoundly unsettled both our personal and political lives. Some of its sources are epistemic: How long will vaccine immunity last? Do rising prices threaten economic recovery? Others are sharply existential: How will I pay rent next month? Will I see my loved one again? At no other moment in the twenty-first century has there been such widespread unease about what the future holds.

Uncertainty is perhaps never more consequential than where it intersects with political power. Leading this issue’s forum, Sheila Jasanoff, pioneering scholar of science and technology studies, argues that public policy could benefit from a much more serious acknowledgment of uncertainty. In place of the hubris of technocratic expertise, Jasanoff calls for “technologies of humility”—institutional mechanisms, including greater citizen participation, for incorporating a wider range of experience and views in our schemes of democratic governance. Respondents to Jasanoff consider other causes of pandemic mismanagement and ask whether humility is the best response.

Other contributors extend the discussion of uncertainty beyond COVID-19, from philosophy to anthropology. Together they make clear that uncertainty need not be paralyzing. As Simon Torracinta observes, the late social scientist Albert O. Hirschman saw it as an opportunity. Perfect planning is impossible, he thought, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to build a more just world.

CONTRIBUTORS: Sheila Jasanoff, Jana Bacevic, Caley Horan, Annie Howard, Lily Hu, Michael D. Jackson, Jay S. Kaufman, Oded Na'aman, Zeynep Pamuk, Simon Torracinta, Alexandre White
Founded in 1975, Boston Review is a non-profit, reader-supported political and literary magazine—a public space for discussion of ideas and culture. We put a range of voices and views in dialogue on the web (without paywalls or commercial ads) and in print (four times a year)—covering lots of ground from politics and philosophy to poetry, fiction, book reviews, and criticism. One premise ties it all together: that a flourishing democracy depends on public discussion and the open exchange of ideas.
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Great app, great publication

Great publication—their quarterly issues are some of my favorite reads throughout the year. And they're a nonprofit, so I like supporting their mission. Reviewed Monday, 5 August 2019

Articles in this issue

Below is a selection of articles in Boston Review Uncertainty.

EDITORS’ NOTE nearly two years into a global pandemic, uncertainty has profoundly unsettled both our personal and political lives. Some of its sources are epistemic: When should schools reopen for in-person learn...
HUMILIT Y IN PANDEMIC TIMES the covid-19 pandemic has confounded the world’s expectations at every turn. It began in surprise, continued with chaos, and devolved into conspiracy theories. From a policy standpoint, it gave the...
THE CONTOURS OF IGNORANCE HUMILITY HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN AMONG the popular virtues. While open-mindedness, curiosity, honesty, integrity, and perseverance are widely regarded as scientific virtues, humility is frequently left ...
THE LIVES OF OTHERS IN FEBRUARY 1866 the third International Sanitary Conference—an early forerunner of the World Health Organization (WHO)— convened in Constantinople at the request of the French government, bringing ...
WHY WE DON’T ACT why do we fail to predict—and even more importantly, prevent— social and political crises? I have often had occasion to reflect on this question in my work on the dissolution of former Yugoslavia in...
REAPING WHAT WE SOW SHEILA JASANOFF HAS provided an expansive and nuanced rumination on our pandemic predicament, with many important insights on science, politics, and the meaning of public health preparedness. From t...

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