With the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Americans are embracing the class politics of socialism. But what, exactly, is socialism? And what would a socialist system in America look like? Bhaskar Sunkara explores socialism's history since the mid-1800s and presents a vision for its future.
...the core audience for the Manifesto is swing voters who prefer their critiques of capitalism unsullied by identitarian cant about racial divisions ... who can fault Sunkara as he deigns to appeal to the people as they are? ... A stickler for concision, Sunkara packs into its 288-page frame, alongside the inaugural speculative fiction, a condensed history of prior socialist movements across the world ... No sentence is difficult to diagram; the imposing analytic thickets typical of Western Marxist writing have been leveled down to the simplicity of grass ... Sunkara presents an encyclopedic knowledge of various American anti-capitalist parties ... By the end of the recital a lamenting tone creeps into his measured prose ... The Socialist Manifesto is restrained, almost apologetic; it is haunted by the specters of pessimism and belatedness, the knowledge that socialism has already been tried, already been found wanting ... a sustained and penetrating analysis of present-day America—its economy, society, culture, and politics—is as absent from The Socialist Manifesto as the hard accounting of how much risk one runs in seeking to improve America for its most oppressed citizens. Not only does this book begin with make-believe, its unrealness never ends.
...a smart book ... The book has a hipster feel. It begins with a joke about Jon Bon Jovi...and concludes with chapters entitled 'Return of the Mack' and Stay Fly.' At the same time, the book is politically serious and even earnest about the importance of reviving the tradition of Marxian socialism, and it demands much of its readers by way of historical understanding and political conviction ... There is drama to his story, and a sense of direction. But at the same time, the drama is too simplistic, too buoyant, and too self-assured — as any text claiming to be The Manifesto must be. It fails to take account of the deeper failings of Marxism ... Sunkara’s 'manifesto' encourages a kind of historical comfort and political rigidity that ill serves his readers ... Sunkara hinges his argument on his reading of history. As he acknowledges, all histories are in some sense 'selective.' The problem with Sunkara’s account is how selective it is, and how much of importance it either leaves out or considers only as a footnote to Sunkara’s Marx-centered history of socialism ... Many young socialists will read the book. I hope they will learn from it. But I also hope they will interrogate it, and treat it as a spur to learn more about the things it fails adequately to discuss, so that they can better engage the others with whom they must work to defend democracy and extend the politics of social and economic justice.
... makes worthwhile reading, even though it's not really a manifesto per se ... Sunkara's imaginary journey is a bit too short and densely detailed to fully achieve its aims; efforts to inject pop culture references to make it hip don't really succeed either, but it deserves credit for imagination and ambition ... Sunkara hits his stride in these chapters – he's a first-rate storyteller, and at his best when spinning out an engaging narrative, with smart yet accessible political analysis – but the goal of this section is less clear. The stories all share pessimistic outcomes. It's difficult to tell what lesson is meant to be learned here, especially if the book aspires to be a manifesto ... It's here that Sunkara's manifesto coheres as a whole: the histories of part two informing his road map in part three, with the goal of achieving the socialist future imagined in part one. It's not exactly a manifesto, but The Socialist Manifesto is important reading for our tumultuous and transformative present.