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After Progress

The twentieth century witnessed a profound shift in both socialism and social reform. In the early 1900s, social reform seemed to offer a veritable religion of redemption, but by the century's end, while socialism remained a vibrant force in European society, a culture of extreme individualism and consumption all but squeezed the welfare state out of existence. Documenting this historic change, After Progress: European Socialism and American Social Reform in the 20th Century is the first truly comprehensive look at the course of social reform and Western politics after Communism, brilliantly explained by a major social thinker of our time. Norman Birnbaum traces in fascinating detail the forces that have shifted social concern over the course of a century, from the devastation of two world wars, to the post-war golden age of economic growth and democracy, to the ever-increasing dominance of the market. He makes sense of the historical trends that have created a climate in which politicians proclaim the arrival of a new historical epoch but rarely offer solutions to social problems that get beyond cost-benefit analyses. Birnbaum goes one step further and proposes a strategy for bringing the market back into balance with the social needs of the people. He advocates a reconsideration of the notion of work, urges that market forces be brought under political control, and stresses the need for education that teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Both a sweeping historical survey and a sharp-edged commentary on current political posturing, After Progress examines the state of social reform past, present and future.
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About the Author

Norman Birnbaum is University Professor at Georgetown University Law School and the author of The Crisis of Industrial Society and Toward a Critical Sociology (both from OUP). A founding editor of New Left Review, he has served on the board of Partisan Review and The Nation . He lives in Washington, D.C.


Superb...presents the key events and players in left movements of the twentieth century in a way that helps us understand their importance.... An elegantly written and thoroughly researched work that goes well beyond the standard left-wing narrative of rapacious capitalists and heroic organizing drives. * Ruy Teixeira, The American Prospect * In this great synopsis of a century of reform movements in the U.S. and Europe, Norman Birnbaum gives an account of what has kept accumulating in the course of the cosmopolitan life of a scholar with that unique combination of talents in comparative social, political, and religious studies. * Jurgen Habermas * The book is to be celebrated for its astonishing synoptic powers, its erudition, and, not least, its political quotes and anecdotes. * Norman Mailer * A wonderful journey through the ins and outs of Western socialism and social reform by a participant-observer with educated eyes. * Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University * A sophisticated and wide-ranging study. It is erudite, melancholy, and bound to arouse interest and controversy. * Peter Gay * The value of Birnbaum's book lies in its comprehensive survey of socialism together with its intelligent commentary. * New York Times Book Review *

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