It Didn’t Happen Here


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Two of America’s leading political sociologists explore a phenomenon of American political exceptionalism: the failure of the socialist movement in the United States. Parties calling themselves Socialist, Social-Democratic, Labor, or Communist have been major forces in every democratic country in the world, yet they have played a surprisingly insignificant role in American politics. Why the United States, the most developed capitalist industrial society and hence, ostensibly, fertile ground for socialism, should constitute an exception has been a critical question of American history and political development. In this probing work the authors draw on rich contrasts with other English-speaking countries and extensive comparisons within the United States at the state and city levels, eschewing conventional explanations of socialism’s demise to present a fuller understanding of how multiple factors–political structure, American values, and the split between the Socialist party and mainstream unions–combined to seal socialism’s fate. Further chapters examine the distinctive character of American trade unions, immigration and the fragmentation of the American working class, socialist strategies, and repression, concluding with a penetrating analysis of American political exceptionalism up to the present day.

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