Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

Why You Should Buy “Why You Should Be A Socialist”

This Tuesday, December 10th, my first book with a major publisher will be released. It’s called Why You Should Be A Socialist, and it’s available from St. Martins Press.

I’ll admit, I’m very nervous about having this book come out! I think it is good, and that every single person both read it themselves and foist copies on every non-socialist they know. But it’s odd to realize that—unlike my previous books, which we just put out through Current Affairs—this will be in Bookstores Everywhere. Copies are being shipped around the country by plane, train, and automobile as I write this.

Speaking of Bookstores Everywhere, if you’re in Washington D.C., come to Solid State Books on Tuesday the 10th at 7:oopm for the Release Event! I’d love to meet you and (if you’d like) desecrate your book with my horrible handwriting. If you’re in New York City, I’ll be at the Powerhouse Arena this Thursday the 12th, also at 7:00pm. If you’re interested in booking me for an event, please fill out this form, though I’ll warn you that it may take me a while to reply as I’m hopeless at coordinating things.

So, why should you buy Why You Should Be A Socialist? Well, for one thing, because I think that no matter what your politics are, you will find something interesting in it. If you’re not a socialist, it will give you a basic introduction to a socialistic way of looking at the world and the socialist agenda, and hopefully clear up some misconceptions. If you are a socialist, it will offer lots of good quotes, sources, and arguments that will help you in persuading others to join the left. (Leftists will also benefit from the Appendix, “A Left Media Diet,” which recommends a ton of good lefty writers, broadcasters, and publications to pay attention to.)

The book is organized in three parts:

  • Part I: What is the Left So Mad About?
  • Part II: What is Socialism and Why Is It Good?
  • Part III: What are the Other Political Ideologies and Why Are They Bad?

In Part I, I look at the social problems that concern leftists, explain why so many young people flocked to the Bernie Sanders campaign, and why we feel that we “cannot wait.” In Part II, I explain socialism as I understand it personally, and look at some historic socialists, as well as clear up definitions. I also give an overview of the specific agendas that socialists today support. In Part III, I look at conservatism and liberalism and show why socialists reject both. Then I respond to common anti-socialist arguments.

I tried to write the book in a fun and engaging way, even though it deals with very serious issues like climate change and nuclear war. I wanted something that people could give to their non-socialist friends and relatives to explain to them why our political leftism is so important to us and what it’s all about. My general feeling is that I accomplished this decently and that the book is absolutely worth picking up and checking out.

I doubt there is anyone who will agree with all of Why You Should Be A Socialist, even socialists. I make some quite provocative remarks, though there are other areas where socialist friends will think I haven’t been radical enough. One reason I am nervous is that I’m sure I got a few things wrong here and there, and I feel like a large number of right-wingers and some leftists are going to despise both me and this book! I hope the critics aren’t too harsh, though goodness knows I probably deserve it. I know the conservatives are going to squeal and tell me that I Don’t Understand Basic Economics. But I don’t care about them. The people I really don’t want to let down are my comrades on the left, because I feel so strongly that what they are doing is incredibly important and that the future depends on their success. As I wrote the book, I was thinking of all the wonderful people in the DSA, and all the socialists running campaigns, and all the people canvassing for Bernie. My book will have succeeded if it does anything to make their lives a little easier and their mission more likely to be accomplished.

I do hope that even if you disagree with the book, you give it a chance. I think you’ll find that it’s good at at least starting the conversation. To me, one thing that is so important about socialism is that it focuses our attention on the things that are most urgent: war, exploitation, racism, and climate change. Coming up with a clear vision for “how socialism would work” is a very difficult task, but what socialists have historically been excellent at is sharpening our moral sensibilities so that we do not tolerate intolerable things. This is why I find Bernie Sanders and AOC so inspiring: Almost alone among politicians, they are very clearly focused on ordinary people’s struggles to make a living. Socialists get what the problems are in a way that conservatives and centrist liberals do not, because we see all the misery and hardship that fuels the giant churning capitalist machine. I think the most important way in which my book succeeds is in making it clear what politics should be about and in defending historic socialists as heroes who have helped make the world better through their refusal to accept the existence of social hierarchy as necessary.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy of Why You Should Be A Socialist and read the definitive irrefutable case for socialism. Then give it to every reactionary relative as a Christmas present in order to amuse yourself.

(I also recorded the audiobook version, so anyone who wants to hear 12 hours of my weird voice can do so!)

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