The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington

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PublicAffairs, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 449 pages
4 Reviews
As Isserman notes, along with Silent Spring and The Feminine Mystique, Michael Harrington's The Other America stood out in the early 1960s as a beacon illuminating a vital, neglected part of America's political landscape. Ironically, although his vocation was as a movement-builder, his book alone sparked no movement; it did swiftly result in policy -- President Johnson's War on Poverty -- though without the focus or level of funding found in European welfare states that Harrington, a former Catholic Worker turned socialist, argued was necessary. Decades later, several European socialist leaders reputedly believed that had he been European, he would have been a prime minister. But since he wasn't, his life was lived in surroundings too small for his gifts. Sectarian politics swallowed much of his energy in the 1950s, leaving organizational commitments and battle scars that crippled his potential to play a leading role in shaping the political movements of the 1960s. Remarkably, Harrington bounced back to achieve great success in the 1970s, with the Democratic Agenda movement, which crafted significant progressive planks in the Democratic Party platform. Isserman (If I Had a Hammer), a noted historian of the American Left, does an excellent job of drawing the reader in with Harrington's family background and early life, but there's too little exploration of his writing and of the conservative forces arrayed against him in the '70s and '80s for readers to fully appreciate the sweep and sophistication of his intellectual vision or his capacity to adapt. Still, this is a valuable and intriguing look at a major figure of the American left of enduring influence.

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User Review  - pjsullivan - LibraryThing

This is the story of Michael Harrington's struggle for relevance. He left the Catholic Worker in search of power to effect social change. A democratic socialist committed to improving the lot of the ... Read full review

Review: The Other American The Life Of Michael Harrington

User Review  - Goodreads

Overall a good biography, the author may spend a bit to much time detailing some of the infighting in the American left, although it was an important part of Harrington's life. Insightful in many ways ... Read full review


one Community Family and Faith 19281944
two Leaving Home 19441947
three An Awful Lot of SoulSearching 19471950

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About the author (2000)

Maurice Isserman is James L. Ferguson Professor of History, Hamilton College. He lives in Clinton, NY. Stewart Weaver is professor of history, University of Rochester. He lives in Rochester, NY. Both authors are enthusiastic hikers and mountain climbers.

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