Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Socialism and "Socialism"

There's a nice convergence today of three top-notch discussions of "socialism," prompted by a NY Times reporter asking Obama the other day whether he is a "socialist." Times have changed. The accusation of political evil used to be the L-word, "liberal." I guess the right has caught on that the American people have moved left. Now it's the S-word.

Both Andrew Koppelman and Peter Levine make the point that Obama is only really a socialist if one makes that claim (or accusation) from the perspective of a rather far out and vicious libertarianism (which makes every existing government look "socialist").

I suggest reading Peter's post first. It's brief and to the point that it's rather incoherent to try label the new administration "socialist" because it's unclear what the term really means. Then move on to Koppelman's tidy discussion of different political shades on the left (Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism) and the right ("Market Fetishists" and "Sentimental Fools") in the US. His take is that Obama is a basic Social Democrat, and the critics on the right are Market Fetishists. If you're still going, move on to Sheri Berman's piece in Dissent, "Unheralded Battle: Capitalism, the Left, Social Democracy, and Democratic Socialism."


MT said...

So when did you become a blogger, helmut. Can you imagine the United States with a blogger for a president?

helmut said...

I don't get it.

highlowbetween said...

This is great - thanks for these link. I was just in a ridiculous discussion the other day on this very topic of definitions.

and yeah, weird comment.

troutsky said...

Yes indeed, I'm going to borrow your links for the discussion we have been having at my blog. I think Berman misses the boat by not being honest about current state of Scandanavian social democracy and overestimating success of synthesis between capitalism and democracy in general. She promotes the utopian imaginay while dispariging Harringtons lack of "specifics".

I would be curious about your own position.

MT said...


That wasn't a comment on your post really, just a riff on politically stigmatized words. Should I apologize for being opaque? For being irrelevant and uninteresting? For commenting when I have nothing to say? Hah! Never! Get it now, helmut? The joke's on you! Mwooohaaahaaahaaahaaa. Also Micachu reminds me of Michael Franks.

helmut said...

Never apologize for being opaque. That would be a different you (both the apology and transparency).

Yes, but I've also always thought that Mozart reminds me of Michael Franks. And the Rolling Stones. And Throbbing Gristle. Michael Franks, comic genius.