Friday night topic: Socialism lives?

— 5:16 PM on May 16, 2003

Back when the Berlin wall had just fallen, the USSR had collapsed, and the Democrats' deadlock on the House had been broken... I was entering grad school at a big university in Boston. World events had affected the intellectual climate profoundly. People in the academy were generally reluctant to endorse socialism—or at least to use the word. They didn't like capitalism, would talk about its many (real and alleged) problems, and then they would talk about the need for "alternative forms of economic organization." Of course, from what I gathered, they had no alternatives in mind other than socialism or at least an incrementalist welfare state.

I remember a remarkable conversation I had with one very bright friend of mine who, after much prodding, finally admitted to me he still believed in socialism (properly implemented, of course). Just as I'd suspected, old habits die hard, even if they have to go into hiding or change names for a while. Over time, people seemed to become more comfortable being socialists again, but I'm not sure how far that trend has gone.

Now I'm pretty far removed from the academy, and I'm unsure what the climate is these days. So I suppose I have a two-pronged question for us to consider. First, is socialism still alive on the intellectual left? If so, what forms and/or names has it taken? Second, what do you think? Is socialism still viable as a political movement? As a means of arranging an economy? Or has global capitalism simply won?

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