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Mapping the American Left

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I wrote an article with Rafael Khachaturian on the American Left for the Russian journal Социология власти (Sociology of Power).

You can download it here.

Here’s an excerpt:

The American left currently finds itself on unfamiliar political terrain. It is more energized today than it has been in decades. Interest in socialism is growing, especially among a younger generation initiated into politics by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. More recently, opposition to Trump, outrage toward his embrace of racism and xenophobia, millennials’ anxieties about their economic prospects, and a deepening skepticism about the ability of established government institutions to address these problems has caused many to seek answers on the left. The American left hasn’t experienced such a rapid influx of activists and adherents since the 1960s.

And yet, this rebirth comes with uncertainty. One of the challenges facing the left since the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s is producing lasting institutions, and making tangible inroads within working class communities, especially among people of color. Though a diffuse swathe of organizations and groups are cultivating substantial political capital, these forces have yet to cohere into a unified movement or forge durable coalitions. Potential working class constituencies for a left policy agenda and their institutions — trade unions, churches, and social organizations — remain wedded to the Republican and Democratic parties. Questions about the sources of political power, how to take it, and the very ideological and institutional nature of democratic socialism dog many activists. Moreover, the task of recomposition into a new political force has inflicted the American left with its own internal polarization. It remains a patchwork of different groups split between trying to push the Democratic Party to the left or to carve out an independent space outside the existing American political duopoly. In many respects, the old specters familiar to organizing on the left continue to haunt it. Though revived, the left has a long uphill battle before it can claim solid support among working class Americans.