To: Atlantic Readers
Is there any concept more anodyne and vague at the one extreme, and more powerful at the other, than the idea of ideas? To give some heft and edge to it, we chose to build this, The Atlantic’s first Ideas Issue, not around speculative experimentation, academic abstraction, or gee-whiz gizmos—cool though they may be—but around real-world attempts to rethink big questions.
So Mark Bowden looks at Rupert Murdoch’s ideas for remaking the American newspaper, while Jonathan Rauch examines General Motors’ attempt to reinvent itself and the auto industry—by rethinking internal combustion. Robert D. Kaplan reconsiders Donald Rumsfeld’s attempts to transform the military, in the process recasting our image of Rumsfeld himself. Hanna Rosin, investigating a mysterious spike in crime, compels us to think anew about the seeming success of one of the most important antipoverty initiatives of the past 20 years. For his part, Jeffrey Goldberg rethinks himself—undergoing a brain-scanning procedure that marketers are now using to see what motivates us (it turns out that Goldberg is motivated, in part, by Edie Falco).
For this issue, The Atlantic’s editors and writers also thought back over the past year, distilling the ideas that we believe had the greatest influence. You might think we need to rethink our list; if so, please weigh in with your own big ideas about the past year.