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on June 16, 2016
John Nichols overviews the major contributions of socialists to US politics and governmental policies. The author explains how American socialists fought to preserve freedom of speech, combat racism, fight corporatism, protect the environment, introduce health and safety standards, and encourage public schooling. Socialists also tend to make more honest, genuine politicians!

I appreciate the efforts of American socialists. They have an important place in history and have earned a seat at the table of American political thought. However, Nichols has utterly failed to convince me that unabated Marxist socialism is a practical or desirable idea, socialism being a political system wherein the public and/or government owns the means of production.

Anyone who has worked for or with a government at any level can testify to its remarkable inefficiency due to bloated hierarchy and poor inter-departmental communication. And, frankly, anyone who has worked in a low-wage unskilled labor or service position can probably attest to the fact that at least half of your coworkers probably deserved their low social class. I just don't think the government or public at large should own the means of production in most (though not all) industries.

A lot of what the American socialists have accomplished in this country has nothing to do with public ownership of the means of production. It seems to me that, especially with regard to race, it was more a case of two outcast groups (socialists and blacks) joining forces as allies of convenience. A lot of the other work done by socialists was simply social welfare.

When corporatism was running amok and the American working class was being oppressed (ie, today's equivalent of the Vietnamese sweat-shop workers), socialism may have been appealing. And I'm thankful that socialism and corporatism balanced each other out. But I don't think that, in 2016, socialism is either necessary or desirable. I would rather critique and refine our current system than start over with a new one.

Lastly, I really want to mention that Chapter 2 is in odd contrast with the rest of the book. While later chapters contain intelligent overviews of socialist action and thoughtful political discussion, Chapter 2 (which is meant to review the proto-socialist ideology of Thomas Paine) is largely composed of infantile complaints about Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. We get it, they're morons--now why are you mentioning them more often than Paine?

But the real death-blow for Chapter 2 comes in the form of a quote attributed to Fidel Castro at the chapter's opening. The fact that this megalomaniacal despot is still being lauded as a hero by socialists only serves to highlight their naivety.
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on April 28, 2016
Best historical perspective of American Socialism. Excellent background for Bernie Sanders
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on April 25, 2016
Excellent book! The truth about how popular socialism has always been in the the US
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on April 19, 2016
I thought to myself, "hey, socialism seems like something people are constantly upset about so I'm going to read up on it". This book has some very interesting sections but it also has some sections that are so dry it took me a while to finish them.
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on March 27, 2016
John Nichols best book so far
great read for anyone who history of the Left loved it I feel bern
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on February 2, 2016
Major Progressive Milestone. Half of young voters say they are socialists before they are capitalists. Socialism is no longer a dirty word. Here is the middle ground compromise between capitalism and socialism that will be the future. Socialism for necessities. Capitalism for the rest.
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on January 17, 2016
Very nice review
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on October 9, 2015
The author, his editors, and his publisher let a book go to press that quotes other works extensively but fails to cite their sources properly in the Notes section. For shame!
Now that I have read the book, I can complete my review. It was entertaining and enlightening. Nichols enlists Emma Lazarus, Walt Whitman, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Horace Greeley, Eugene V Debs, A Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Harrington as his American socialists Very good read.
But it is inexcusable to quote extensively as the author does without sourcing it. His notes list his sources but The Complete Works of ... does not do it.
1 star until this is fixed.
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on September 28, 2015
I found "The S Word" exceptionally well written. The history of Socialism and the positive impact it has had on our American Democracy
is inspiring.
I never realized the extent to which the socialist ideals have influenced our lives.
Read the book and be proud of the determined strong people that have influenced the best American policies.
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on August 22, 2015
John Nichols' explains, in a very straight forward manner, how Socialists and Socialist ideals, have been a part of American political history since the founding of our nation. Americans have a lingering fear of the "S" word to the point that they have negated the fact that some very prominent Socialist political figures have actually help shape many of our governmental policies, especially on the local levels of government.

Nichols helps explain just how much our country's political ideologies are grounded in Socialism. How many people know (or are willing to admit) that Abraham Lincoln, one of our nations most prominent Presidents, corresponded regularly with Karl Marx? Or that Thomas Paine was an advocate for workers and Socialist policies until his death and had great influence on President Thomas Jefferson. Or that Wisconsin, usually considered on of the more conservative states in the Union, has a long history of Socialist governmental figures? The "big tent" party, as the Republican party likes to call itself, actually was a big tent when it first emerged under Lincoln. Is it just a coincidence that the Republican party's signature color is red?

Nichols has brought to the forefront a topic that many Americans still speak about in hushed tones because of the lingering, political stain of McCarthyism and pushes the reader to think about what good Socialists and the Socialist party have done for America. With the rise of the Socialist Party of America, and prominent political figures like Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont who is doing much better than expected in the 2016 Presidential Campaign, our country is on the verge of possibly becoming a more balanced government with more than two political parties controlling the government, mirroring a more balanced field of elected officials much like our neighbors to the north in Canada.
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