Mother Jones has a donor community of 40,000—the largest of any nonprofit media organization. We’re proud of that, and proud, too, that our supporters are a talented and interesting bunch. Case in point, Saskia Sassen.
Saskia is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and co-chairs The Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. She is a scholar of cities, immigration, and states in the world economy—with a focus on themes of inequality, gender, and digitization. She is the author of eight books and the editor/co-editor of three. Together, her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.
The Insider sat down with Professor Sassen to chat geopolitics, lime-abundant gin and tonics, and MoJo as the "indomitable guessers of what matters."
Mother Jones: How did you first learn about Mother Jones?
Saskia Sassen: Decades ago. I think I first heard of it when I came to the US and got involved with left political causes. I was an undocumented immigrant but already involved in the McGovern campaign.
MJ: What do you think is Mother Jones’ best story to date?
SS: I am always so grateful for Mother Jones’ research and analysis. What I like is the hard core, ground-level reporting, that MJ often gives us, rather than just an essay which easily becomes a rant. Mother Jones is doing hard work. It’s not just doing commentary. It, more often than not, lets the reader interpret and decide "what it all means." There is too much easy commentary, just a making public of opinions rather than the hard work of researching, evaluating, and checking the data.
MJ: You started giving to Mother Jones just this year and have already volunteered to be a part of the host committee for our event on June 11 focusing on fracking in China. What about this particular conversation made you want to help?
SS: The fracking boom in China captures a key dynamic: the effect of new technologies and foreign investment on local communities and geographies. It shows us that the old geopolitical divisions—notably capitalist/communist country—matter far less than the destructive practices at ground level.
MJ: What would you like to see Mother Jones doing five years from now?
SS: I am inclined to think that the best judge of what must be researched and presented to the readership are MJ’s editors/reporters/experts/indomitable guessers of what matters.
MJ: What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you?
SS: I love long writing sessions with regular jumping up and turning on some hard rock and dancing like crazy, taking a good, lime-abundant gin and tonic, and then writing up some of my best ideas…admittedly the next morning I return to the text and need to tame it down. But really, some of my best ideas come out of these wild sessions. My books are looong and boooring, but they have good ideas, and those ideas come out of that wild swirling.