2019-2020 Catalog

AMST 200 Democratic Socialism, American Style

“America will never be a socialist country, “ President Donald Trump  declared in his 2019 State of the Union Address.  “The American left is on the cusp of a great victory,” wrote David Brooks, the New York Times conservative columnist, in 2018.

More than at any time since World War I, Americans are talking about socialism. Conservatives fear it. Liberals question it.  Progressives and radicals embrace it.  Why is that word, and the egalitarian vision it defines, enjoying a resurgence in the United States?  And does it mean, as Trump warned and Brooks predicted, that socialism is on the American horizon? According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 37 percent of all Americans, and almost half of Americans under 40, have a more favorable view of socialism than of capitalism.  A growing number of socialists have been elected to office at the local, state and federal levels. Democratic socialists have played key roles in the upsurge of  21st Century activism,  including Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for 15,  #metoo, the Green New Deal, and others.  Ideas considered radical only a decade ago – universal health care, tuition-free college, a $15 federal minimum wage, same-sex marriage, requiring big corporations to put workers and union members on their boards, green jobs, and many others – are now widely accepted.  Is it possible that, within a generation, America might get closer to, or even become,  a socialist democracy?

The course will focus on the history of socialism in America as both an idea and a movement. It will examine the efforts of socialists to change public opinion and public policy, from both the outside (as a protest movement) and the inside (as elected officials).  It will explore the coalitions and tensions (past and present) between America’s socialist movement and the labor, civil rights, feminist, environmental, and other movements.  The course will look at the role of activists, intellectuals, artists, and politicians in shaping socialist ideas and movements.  We will examine how and why socialism in the U.S. has had periods of success  and periods of failure,  and look at its influence in shaping American culture and politics.  We’ll also discuss the conditions of life, policies, and tensions facing current democratic socialist and social democratic countries (particularly in Europe). The course will also explore the differences and similarities between democratic socialism and liberalism, progressivism, social democracy, and Communism. 


4 units

Cross Listed Courses

POLS 200