Why socialism has failed to play a significant role in the United States-the most developed capitalist industrial society and hence, ostensibly, fertile ground for socialism-has been a critical question of American history and political development. Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks "survey with subtlety and shrewd judgment the various explanations" (Wall Street Journal) for this phenomenon of American political exceptionalism. "Clearly written, intelligent, filled with new information" (Times Literary Supplement), this "splendidly convincing" (Michael Kazin, Georgetown University) work eschews conventional arguments about socialism's demise to present a fuller understanding of how multiple factors-political structure, American values, immigration, and the split between the Socialist party and mainstream unions-combined to seal socialism's fate. "In peak form, two master political sociologists offer a must-read synthesis."-Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
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WW Norton & Co
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UK Kirkus Review »
The authors examine one of the most enduring features of American 'exceptionalism' - why, among all the advanced liberal democratic capitalist states, the United States has never developed a socialist or social democratic tradition. Partly, they say, this is the product of an American value system which is profoundly individualist and anti-statist but partly it is a product of a highly mobile society in which large numbers of individuals seem to be able to escape from the bottom of the pile within a generation or two rather than remaining a part of a hereditary proletariat; also, the ethnically and religiously diverse American working class, largely a product of large scale immigration over the past 100 years, has failed to develop a sense of common class unity and solidarity and a will to collective working class political action. These factors, say the authors, have had a permanent effect upon the structure of both state and economy in the USA, where welfare spending and taxation levels are both much lower than in Europe though poverty and inequality are higher. However, as the European left seems to be progressivly ditching its collectivist, welfarist tradition, America is looking less 'exceptionalist' today then ever before. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Seymour Martin Lipset
Seymour Martin Lipset is the Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Gary Marks is professor of political science and director of the Center for European Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.