What Are We Talking About When We Talk about Socialism?

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With the election to the House of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, following up on the surprising Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, socialism is on the rise, after a long decline in America. But the Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore says there is a great deal of ambiguity about what socialism even means. Americans have always danced around the term, and the actual policies advanced under the banner of socialism may look very similar to liberalism, or social democracy, or even the historical movement known as “good government.” Sanders declared that the hero of his brand of socialism is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who insisted that he was not a socialist. Lepore tells David Remnick, “The way our politics works is to discredit not the idea or the policy but the label.” Plus, the actor Richard E. Grant has just been nominated for his first Oscar, for “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” after thirty-plus years in the movies. And, as an Oscar nominee, he finally got Barbra Streisand, his all-time idol, to reply to a fan letter he sent her nearly fifty years ago.

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