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Michael Harrington on Socialism

Michael Harrington is probably best remembered as the author of The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Published in 1962, it documented how, after two decades of unprecedented prosperity, there were still a substantial number of Americans who were poor and that it was not simply a matter of race or rural isolation, but something that was endemic all across our country. The book was not the first to document this state of affairs. But it was eloquent, thorough, and well timed to catch a growing wave of liberalism in the early 1960s. It was, in fact, given credit for inspiring the Johnson Administration's "War on Poverty".

The timing of the book was also fortunate in that Harrington was just finding his voice as a public speaker, allowing him to take advantage of the "buzz" to become a player in mainstream politics. This also enabled him to become the last public spokesman of any consequence (to date) for democratic socialism in the United States.

This particular speech by Michael Harrington was given in early 1971 at the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago. The meeting was sponsored by the University of Chicago chapter of the Young Peoples Socialist League. In many ways, the speech is classic Harrington: a mix of the pragmatic and the utopian, with an awareness of the complexities that ideology often obscures.

 

Unfortunately, the sound quality of this tape was never particularly good due to some technical difficulties at the time of recording and a podium mounted microphone. It's been cleaned up some since with Dolby and equalizer then compromised by a relatively low sampling rate to keep the file size within reason. The result is something akin to a very good quality wax cylinder recording. Not recommended for those using a dialup connection as this mp3 format file will take 2 to 3 hours to download at dialup speeds; it's a big file. 50:30 minutes; 57.8 megabytes; click here to begin or use the player below.

 

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