Socialism: Past and Future

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On learning his cancer was inoperable, renowned intellectual Michael Harrington simply asked the doctors to keep him alive long enough “to complete a summary statement of the themes I had thought of throughout an activist life.” And they did. Socialism: Past and Future is prominent thinker Michael Harrington’s final contribution: a thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate treatise on the role of socialism both past and present in modern society. He is convincing in his application of classic socialist theory to...

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Overview

On learning his cancer was inoperable, renowned intellectual Michael Harrington simply asked the doctors to keep him alive long enough “to complete a summary statement of the themes I had thought of throughout an activist life.” And they did. Socialism: Past and Future is prominent thinker Michael Harrington’s final contribution: a thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate treatise on the role of socialism both past and present in modern society. He is convincing in his application of classic socialist theory to current economic situations and modern political systems, and he examines the validity of the idea of “visionary gradualism” in bringing about a socialist agenda. He believes that if freedom and justice are to survive into the next century, the socialist movement will be a critical factor. This is the definitive text on the role of socialism throughout history which Publishers Weekly calls “succinct, readable” and the New York Times says “has a lively air of optimism and boldly challenges traditional ideas.”

In this passionate book, the late Michael Harrington draws on a lifetime of thinking and politicking to reject much that has passed for socialism and to define the new forms that will make it the only “hope for human freedom and justice” (Foreign Affairs) in the twenty-first century.

The author of The Other America--which remains a classic nearly 30 years after its original publication--expounds upon the evolving nature of socialism, where it has been and where it is going, in this magnificent work destined to become the definitive treatise on American socialist theory.

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Editorial Reviews

Herbert Mitgang
After reading Mr. Harrington on democratic Socialism, you don't want to pick up a gun; rather, you pick up a book to reload long-forgotten theories. ''Socialism: Past and Future'' boldly challenges traditional ideas. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By ``democratic socialism,'' Harrington means something vastly different from the Soviet or Chinese systems, which he regards as ``bureaucratic collectivisms.'' Calling socialism the major hope for human freedom and justice in the 21st century, the author of The Other America and The New American Poverty demands meaningful worker-involvement in decision-making, reorganization of markets away from pure profiteering, decentralization and a move toward an egalitarian global economy. Today's ``free market'' economies, he argues, are controlled by socially authoritarian, militarist, debt-financed regimes like those of Reagan and Thatcher. Harrington is a nondogmatic thinker, and this succinct, readable synthesis of the various strands of his thought conveys a sense of urgency deepened by his struggle with inoperable cancer. His blueprint for a ``visionary gradualism'' deserves a reading. (July)
Library Journal
As this may be Harrington's last major work (he is battling inoperable cancer), it is worthy of careful attention even though it covers some familiar territory. It is both a condensation of and a sequel to his massive theoretical study Socialism ( LJ 6/1/72), and it also refines and supports arguments put forth in writings such as Toward a Democratic Left ( LJ 3/15/68) and The Next Left ( LJ 1/15/84). He argues that socialist renewal is the only hope for progress and freedom in the next century and he tries to clear away the ``deadwood of the socialist past.'' He is convincing in his application of classic socialist theory to current economic situations, and he examines the validity of the idea of ``visionary gradualism'' in bringing about a socialist agenda. Recommended for all academic libraries.-- Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, Pa.
The New York Times
“Mr. Harrington is a sensitive, compassionate advocate of a just, humane, and civilized future.”
Los Angeles Time Book Review
“Magnificent…more than anything, this is a book about hope.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451628541
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: REP
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Harrington was an American democratic socialist, bestselling writer, political activist, professor of political science, NPR commentator, atheist, and founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. He is also credited with coining the term “neoconservatism” in the 1970s. A major figure of the American left, Harrington is the author of eighteen books including The Other America: Poverty in the United States, The Social-Industrial Complex, The Twilight of Capitalism, and his autobiography The Long Distance Runner. He passed away in 1989.
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