In his 1906 work, “Why is there no socialism in the United States?,” German sociologist Werner Sombart famously mused that American socialism had been ship-wrecked “on reefs of roast beef and apple pie.” While the relative affluence of American workers certainly impacted Leftist organizing at that time, there is a storied history of socialist thought and practice in the United States that nonetheless warrants attention. Grounded in the writing of American socialists, but opening a window into international socialist praxis, this course will explore the shifting grounds of socialist thinking and activism from the mid-19th century to the present. We will engage with a wide-range of debates over: political strategy (e.g. ‘reform versus revolution’); the emergence of fascism; the revolutionary agent(s); the linkages between oppression and exploitation; the relationship between production and social reproduction; the nature of the state; and the realities of imperialism and colonialism. By the end of the term, we will aim to provide an updated answer to Sombart. Or, perhaps, to reframe his question.
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