After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century

After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century

After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century

After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

The twentieth century witnessed a profound shift in both socialism and social reform. In the early 1900s, social reform seemed to offer a veritable religion of redemption, but by the century's end, while socialism remained a vibrant force in European society, a culture of extreme individualism and consumption all but squeezed the welfare state out of existence. Documenting this historic change, After Progress: European Socialism and American Social Reform in the 20th Century is the first truly comprehensive look at the course of social reform and Western politics after Communism, brilliantly explained by a major social thinker of our time. Norman Birnbaum traces in fascinating detail the forces that have shifted social concern over the course of a century, from the devastation of two world wars, to the post-war golden age of economic growth and democracy, to the ever-increasing dominance of the market. He makes sense of the historical trends that have created a climate in which politicians proclaim the arrival of a new historical epoch but rarely offer solutions to social problems that get beyond cost-benefit analyses. Birnbaum goes one step further and proposes a strategy for bringing the market back into balance with the social needs of the people. He advocates a reconsideration of the notion of work, urges that market forces be brought under political control, and stresses the need for education that teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Both a sweeping historical survey and a sharp-edged commentary on current political posturing, After Progress examines the state of social reform past, present and future.

Excerpt

Of reconsiderations of Western socialism, there is no end. the governments of socialist and social democratic parties in France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom find it difficult to define, and even more to practice, a specifically socialist politics. the prominence of ideas on the supreme efficiency of the market, the large changes implied by the notion of globalization, are historically rather recent. They are, however, the contemporary forms of recurrent dilemmas. the socialist movement has always had to run a desperate race over an interminable obstacle course. Its past was neither easier or simpler.

There is no end, either, of critical reconsiderations of our own American past—and of our disappointing present. That we lack in the United States a major political formation proposing a large alternative to our version of capitalism is hardly a recondite point. the conspicuous lack of enthusiasm of much of the Democratic Party for our own tradition of social reform is its closest approach to political passion. There is good reason, however, to regard that tradition as our kind of social democracy, embodying in secular form the redemptive ethos of our republic.

Socialism in all its forms was itself a religion of redemption. Now that its promise of a world, indeed of a humanity, transformed has been consigned to a past that we are told will never recur, let us examine its history more closely. At the very beginning of this century, the halting . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.