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All these titles are selected not only on the basis of their excellence, but also because of their availability in print for reasonable prices. Other titles that are highly recommended but more difficult to find outside of libraries are Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism; Michael Harrington, Fragments of the Century; and Irving Howe, Socialism and America.

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How Soccer Explains the World

Franklin Foer, 2010.

The final chapter explains why social democratic countries like France, Germany, Spain, and Holland dominate the World Cup in recent years and why no Communist country ever managed to win. Even a tiny social democratic nation like Iceland has seen its national team in international competition punch way above its weight.

Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist

Nick Salvatore, 1982.

The highly regarded biography of the man who ran for U.S. President five times on the Socialist ticket between 1900 and 1920.  Salvatore sees Debs as working within the finest traditions of American radical republicanism.

The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism

John Nichols, 2015.

Nichols revives a sadly neglected American history especially in his account of Socialist governance in Milwaukee in the first half of the 20th century and the contributions to the Black Freedom Struggle of great Socialists such as A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.

The Socialist Awakening: What’s Different Now About the Left

John Judis, 2020.

This slender but essential volume was published in the Fall of 2020.  It is cogent in its analysis of the Sanders influence in the U.S., the defeat of the British Labor party in the last general election, and the current deficiencies of the DSA.

We Own the Future
Democratic Socialism - American Style

Kate Aronoff, Peter Dreier, and Michael Kazin, 2020.

This is an incredibly timely collection of essays from well-credentialed writers, many of them associated with Dissent magazine. There’s no better starting point for the state of American democratic socialism today.

Travel as a Political Act

Rick Steves, 2018.

Steves, famous for his superb travel guides and videos, expresses his social democratic sympathies in his chapter on Denmark in this book, which also includes excellent chapters on drug policy in Europe and on the importance of the European Union.

The Road to Wigan Pier

George Orwell, 1937.

Orwell’s classic account of the lives of English coal miners in the Depression and of his belief in the necessity of democratic socialism in a world threatened by left and right-wing totalitarianism.

The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution, 1918-1921

Eric Lee, 2017.

This sadly forgotten experiment in democratic socialism occurred under the rule of the Mensheviks and featured free elections, press freedom, land reform, and free trade unions until independent Georgia was crushed by the Communists and incorporated into the USSR.  Lee is a historian now based in London, a veteran of the DSOC and the Israeli kibbutz movement.

The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington

Maurice Isserman, 2001.

This is a superb biography of Michael Harrington, author of the anti-poverty classic The Other America and founder of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (predecessor of the DSA).

The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century

Sheri Berman, 2006.

Berman is a leading political scientist who teaches at Columbia and writes from a social democratic perspective. All of her books on European politics are invaluable resources.

One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century

Donald Sassoon, 1996.

This magisterial history by a British historian devotes nearly 800 pages of text to coverage of European Socialism from WW I through the collapse of Communism at the end of the 1980’s.

A Collection of Essays by George Orwell

George Orwell, 1970.

Reflections on politics and literature from one of the finest stylists in the English language.  This collection includes the essay in which Orwell states “Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”

Ill Fares the Land

Tony Judt, 2011.

Judt was the scholar best known for his Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945.  He wrote this elegiac case for social democracy while dying from a degenerative disease.  There is a lot in this little volume about Judt’s love for trains and the public sector.

Socialism: Past and Future

Michael Harrington, 2011.

Michael Harrington, America’s leading Socialist from the 1960’s until his passing in 1989, analyzes the history and state of the movement from its origins into the 1980’s.

Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life

Thomas Geoghegan, 2010.

Geoghegan, a labor attorney from Chicago, focuses especially upon German social democratic policies in the workplace and the personal benefits of strong unions and the welfare state.


Recommended Periodical


We could list a series of magazines of interest to New Social Democrats, but for simplicity’s sake will emphatically recommend just one: Dissent. This indispensable quarterly was launched by its editor, Irving Howe, in 1954 in midst of the American Celebration of the Eisenhower era. It continues its work of educating the newest generation of social democrats in this country under the more recent guidance of Michael Walzer and Michael Kinsley.


Recommended Cable Series

The same applies to this medium in that rather than take a scattergun approach and recommend a whole list of sources, we find it better to stress one exceptional series at this initial stage, the superb Danish political drama, Borgen. In three seasons produced and set in the early 2010’s, the program imagines the story of Denmark’s first female prime minister who leads the Center-Left Moderates. It is a superbly-acted study of the age-old tensions between principle and tactics and the related challenges of coalition governance. Season 3 has the lead character, Birgitte Nyborg, launch a new party, the New Democrats. The choice of New Social Democrats as the name for our own fresh endeavor is no accident. Borgen is scheduled to return for a new season in 2021. We have great plans for that year as well!

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