Foreign Policy Magazine

CAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SAVE THE WORLD [AGAIN]?

1 SOCIALISM IS EXPERIENCING A RESURGENCE. Polls reveal its growing popularity in the United States, particularly among young people. Popular politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proudly refer to themselves as socialists. And the press and public intellectuals can’t seem to stop talking about it.

The main reason for socialism’s resurgence is capitalism—or rather, its negative consequences. Economic growth has slowed over the past decades, and its gains have become more unevenly distributed: Income inequality in the United States today is at its highest point since the Census Bureau began tracking it, and the top 1 percent of Americans control almost as much of the nation’s wealth as the entire middle class, according to the Federal Reserve. Rising inequality has been accompanied by rising insecurity.

As the Yale University professor Jacob Hacker has argued, income volatility has increased, as has the “distance that people slip down the ladder when they lose their financial footing.” Globalization and technological change, meanwhile, have made citizens across the West more uncertain about their and their children’s futures. Social mobility has also declined, particularly in the United States, threatening to turn “have” and “have-not” into hereditary categories. Today’s have-nots, moreover, are not only more economic-ally distant from the haves and more likely to stay that way than in the past, but they are also more likely to lead shorter lives, have physical and mental health problems, fall prey to alcoholism and addiction, and live in broken communities. These developments have created deep divisions and growing frustration in Western societies and provided fertile ground for nativism, polarization, and populism.

Contemporary capitalism’s negative consequences are extensive and disturbing. They are not, however, new. It is only because of the relative prosperity and democratic stability of the decades after World War II that Americans and Europeans have

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