We Own the Future: A Democratic Socialist Reading List

By: 
emily
Friday, January 24, 2020

This new decade opens on a deeply turbulent time in history; with the 2020 US presidential election looming nearer, we are faced with ballooning debt, insecure job, healthcare, education, and housing prospects, and the imminent threat of climate catastrophe. In the wake of Donald Trump's 2016 election, a new wave of leftist organizing has swept across the country, fighting to reverse these trends. Rejecting the neoliberal status quo of austerity and inequality, this new movment has propelled visionaries like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar into Congress. Membership in the organization Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, has exploded from 6000 members in 2015 to 56,000 in 2019, fighting for policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Despite facing staunch opposition from Democrats and Republicans alike, democratic socialism shows no sign of letting up, and DSA-endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is one of the most popular politicians in the country.

We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism- American Style brings together the voices of leading leftist thinkers, writers, and activists to formulate a vision for a more egalitarian and liberated society, and how we can get there. Here, the editors of this crucially timely volume, Kate Aronoff, Michael Kazin, and Peter Dreier, present a reading list of works which have inspired this book, for those interested in learning more about democratic socialism in America. 

 

Winner Take All Politics by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

This acclaimed paradigm-shifting work identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crises of our time—the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

 

Socialism by Michael Harrington

On learning his cancer was inoperable, renowned intellectual and the founder of Democratic Socialists of America 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. An essential volume for anyone interested in the history of American socialism.

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history of racial violence and discrimination and the current crisis.

 

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems. In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option. 

 

The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William Barber II

Over the summer of 2013, the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II led more than a hundred thousand people at rallies across North Carolina to protest restrictions to voting access and an extreme makeover of state government. These protests—the largest state government–focused civil disobedience campaign in American history—came to be known as Moral Mondays and have since blossomed in states as diverse as Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York.At a time when divide-and-conquer politics are exacerbating racial strife and economic inequality, Rev. Barber offers an impassioned, historically grounded argument that Moral Mondays are hard evidence of an embryonic Third Reconstruction in America.

 

The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy by Zachary Roth

Donald Trump is the second Republican this century to triumph in the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. As Zachary Roth reveals in The Great Suppression, this is no coincidence. Over the last decade, Republicans have been rigging the game in their favor. Twenty-two states have passed restrictions on voting. Ruthless gerrymandering has given the GOP a long-term grip on Congress. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has eviscerated campaign finance laws, boosting candidates backed by big money. A sharp, searing polemic in the tradition of Rachel Maddow and Matt Taibbi, The Great Suppression is an urgent wake-up call about a threat to our most cherished values, and a rousing argument for why we need democracy now more than ever.

 

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson

On February 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli delivered a dramatic rant against Obama administration programs to shore up the plunging housing market. Invoking the Founding Fathers and ridiculing "losers" who could not pay their mortgages, Santelli called for "Tea Party" protests. Over the next two years, conservative activists took to the streets and airways, built hundreds of local Tea Party groups, and weighed in with votes and money to help right-wing Republicans win electoral victories in 2010. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism combines fine-grained portraits of local Tea Party members and chapters with an overarching analysis of the movement's rise, impact, and likely fate.

 

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.

 

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth, presenting an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh. The novel follows the fortunes of the Roth family during the Lindbergh presidency, as antisemitism becomes more accepted in American life and Jewish-American families like the Roths are persecuted on various levels. The narrator and central character in the novel is the young Philip, and the care with which his confusion and terror are rendered makes the novel as much about the mysteries of growing up as about American politics. Roth based his novel on the isolationist ideas espoused by Lindbergh in real life as a spokesman for the America First Committee, and on his own experiences growing up in Newark, New Jersey. 

 

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen 

In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Partanen compares and contrasts life in the United States with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships—parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens. She debunks criticism that Nordic countries are socialist “nanny states,” revealing instead that it is we Americans who are far more enmeshed in unhealthy dependencies than we realize. As Partanen explains step by step, the Nordic approach allows citizens to enjoy more individual freedom and independence than we do. Offering insights, advice, and solutions, The Nordic Theory of Everything makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild our society, rekindle our optimism, and restore true freedom to our relationships and live

 

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid

Bringing to bear his talent for explaining complex issues in a clear, engaging way, New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid visits industrialized democracies around the world--France, Britain, Germany, Japan, and beyond--to provide a revelatory tour of successful, affordable universal health care systems. Now updated with new statistics and a plain-English explanation of the 2010 health care reform bill, The Healing of America is required reading for all those hoping to understand the state of health care in our country, and around the world.

 

Differences That Matter: Social Policy and the Working Poor in the United States and Canada by Dan Zuberi 

Bringing to bear his talent for explaining complex issues in a clear, engaging way, New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid visits industrialized democracies around the world--France, Britain, Germany, Japan, and beyond--to provide a revelatory tour of successful, affordable universal health care systems. Now updated with new statistics and a plain-English explanation of the 2010 health care reform bill, The Healing of America is required reading for all those hoping to understand the state of health care in our country, and around the world.

 

Where to Invade Next? and Capitalism: A Love Story, two films by Michael Moore

In Where to Invade Next Moore visits a number of countries and examines aspects of their social policies that he suggests the United States could adopt. He visits Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Tunisia, and Iceland; respectively, the subjects covered are worker benefits, school lunches, early education, college education, worker inclusion, decriminalized drugs, low recidivism, women's health care, and women's inclusion and leadership role in society. 

 

Capitalism: A Love Story centers on the late-2000s financial crisis and the recovery stimulus, while putting forward an indictment of the then-current economic order in the United States and of unfettered capitalism in general. Topics covered include Wall Street's "casino mentality", for-profit prisons, Goldman Sachs' influence in Washington, D.C., the poverty-level wages of many workers, the large wave of home foreclosures, corporate-owned life insurance, and the consequences of "runaway greed". The film also highlights Moore's belief that evangelical conservatives contradict themselves by supporting free market ideals while professing to be Christians.

 

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