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A protester taking part in Occupy Oakland, 2011. Glenn Halog / Flickr

Reading List July 17, 2018

Liberalism and the Left

American politics has seen the fiercest resurgence of left-liberal conflict since the 1960s.
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In the twilight of the Obama years and the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, American politics witnessed the fiercest resurgence of left-liberal conflict since the 1960s. This battle recently came to a head in a stunning electoral upset: Democratic Socialist of America member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat out incumbent Representative Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district.

As progressives of all stripes mobilize weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the debate roils on. These pieces from our recent archive survey what’s at issue—from identity politics, Black Lives Matter activism, and the legacy of the Clintons, to the Sanders campaign, revitalized calls for socialism, and the future of the Democratic Party.

—Matt Lord


Leftists and Liberals in the Political Heartland
by Doug Rossinow

Progressives ought to forsake the half-truth that liberals and leftists always work at cross-purposes. In the wake of Trump’s election, we must learn from the long, if complicated, history of liberal-left cooperation in the United States.

• • •

Mark Lilla and the Crisis of Liberalism
by Samuel Moyn

Lilla’s indictment of identity politics is ill-conceived and unpersuasive, but he is right that U.S. liberalism must take a turn to face structural realities if it is to save itself. His own version of what that requires—building a new nationalism—fails badly, but the insight is dead on.

• • •

The Next Left
an interview with Bhaskar Sunkara

“I’d rather engage with the mass mainstream of U.S. liberalism. That’s the future of any left: people who identify as liberals, some of whom would be attracted to a structural critique of capitalism, especially if it offers a coherent, sane intellectual vision that’s both radical and pragmatic at the same time.”

• • •

Sanders v. Clinton
by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The same question returns eternally: How to transform protest rabble into respectable politics? In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the move to integrate the New Left into the Democratic Party was heralded as a sign of maturation for the counterculture. But as the movements in the streets subsided and activists entered the electoral arena, they imbibed party norms and became less militant.

• • •

The American Left, Liberalism, and Equality
an interview with Eli Zaretsky

Some historians dismiss the very notion of an American left, but Zaretsky argues that it has made a profound impact on American political life. In conversation with Boston Review, he explores why, nevertheless, it never achieves its goals.

• • •

How Can the Democrats Win?
a forum with Rick Perlstein

Historian Rick Perlstein asks how the Democratic Party came to lose so much ground after the ’70s—and what it should do to win again over the long term, including the 2018 mid-term elections.

• • •

The Port Huron Statement at 50
a forum with Tom Hayden

A semicentennial look at the manifesto that helped inaugurate the New Left and usher in a new age of activism.

• • •

Schlesinger and the Decline of Liberalism
by Andrew J. Bacevich

Schlesinger’s America—shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War—has vanished, along with his distinctive and highly influential brand of liberalism. In the era of Trump a seemingly unbridgeable divide exists where the “vital center” once stood. You don’t have to be a liberal to mourn the result.

Our weekly themed reading lists present the best of Boston Review’s archive and get emailed to members every Sunday, and sometimes make their way to our website too. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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