By Gary Dorrien
From time to time, this blog will feature articles from past issues with commentary either by the original author or by those familiar with that author’s work. In this post, Professor Gary Dorrien revisits a lecture he gave on April 26, 1996 at a conference on “The Future of the Welfare State. The conference, held at the City College of New York Graduate Center, was in honor of Michael Harrington, a founder of DSA. This lecture was republished in the millennium issue of Democratic Left, Winter 2000. Below the original article, Dorrien reflects on what he would say now.
Beyond ‘the Twilight of Socialism’: Rethinking Economic Democracy and Christian Socialism
It is a truism, often lamented by neoconservatives though hard to imagine for many others, that modern Christian theology has been largely a social democratic tradition. Most of the major Christian theologians and social ethicists of the past century have shared the dream of a transformed economic order, surprising as this will be to many friends gathered here today!
From the social gospel progressivism of Washington Gladden and Francis G. Peabody to the social gospel socialism of Walter Rauschenbusch, George Herron, and Harry Ward, to the African American social gospel socialism of Reverdy Ransom, George Washington Woodbey, and Mordecai Johnson, to the Anglican socialism of F. D. Maurice, Conrad Noel, Stewart Headlam, Charles Gore, Scott Holland, William Temple, Charles Raven, Vida Scudder, and W. D. P. Bliss, to the Swiss Religious Socialism of Hermann Kutter and Leonhard Ragaz, to the German Social Democracy of Christoph Blumhardt and Günther Dehn, to the neo-Reformation socialism of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Helmut Gollwitzer, to the neo-Marxian dialectical theologies of Paul Tillich and the early Reinhold Niebuhr, to the recent or contemporary Christian socialisms of Walter Muelder, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothee Sölle, Jürgen Moltmann, John B. Cobb Jr., and Cornel West, Catholics Johannes Metz, Daniel Maguire, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gregory Baum, and Arthur McGovern, and too many Latin American liberationists to name besides Gustavo Gutiérrez, José Míguez Bonino, Enrique Dussel, Juan Luis Segundo, Leonardo Boff, Rubem Alves and Jon Sobrino, modern theology has offered many voices calling for socialist alternatives to capitalism.
Theologians and social ethicists like me have inherited a complex tradition of transformational rhetoric from the headliners I just cited. We have also inherited a legacy of cultural accommodation better known to many of you, plus legacies of conflict with conservative churches. There is a puzzling contradiction between the rhetoric and practices of modern Christianity even within progressive churches. Today these contradictions are magnified by the pitiable state of progressive politics and the decline of ecumenical Christianity as a public force.
This century began with ringing social gospel hopes for economic democracy and what English-speaking socialists and progressives called a “cooperative commonwealth.” It is ending with steep losses in the religious communities that created the social gospel and the apparent triumph of global capitalism, posing daunting questions: How much of the vision of economic democracy is salvageable? What is redeemable from the history of democratic socialism, religious and otherwise, when “socialism” mostly conjures up images of killing fields, prison camps, bureaucratic stagnation, and economic backwardness? Is it possible to reclaim the democratic socialist vision of democratized economic power when corporate capitalism is turning the whole world into a single predatory market?
Liberation theology has revived Christian socialism in ways that make it vastly more liberating, anti-racist, feminist, and anti-imperialist than it was previously. But it has not helped very much with the questions just asked. Liberation theologians have not theorized the relationships between socialism and democracy, or analyzed economic policy options, or made arguments about different kinds of socialization, or even bothered to analyze what went wrong in socialist movements of the past. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the doyen of liberation theology, discusses economic issues more specifically than most liberation theologians. But he does so entirely in the mode of anti-capitalist critique, very much like Karl Marx. Gutiérrez commends socialism without saying what it is and confines his economic analysis to attacks on capitalism. He follows Marx’s lead in this area without considering that it was Marx’s vagueness and utopianism about the socialist alternative that allowed generations of totalitarian thugs to call themselves Marxists. Marx, at least, developed his theory during an era in which democracy was merely a form of government, and thus of low importance to him. By the 1890s that was already an indefensible approach, contrary to what so-called orthodox Marxists said. This aspect of Marx’s legacy deserves no place whatsoever in democratic socialist attempts to rethink socialism.
Marx developed the most powerful critique of capitalism ever conceived, and his relentless focus on the factors of production and the logic of overproduction/falling profit made permanent contributions to socialist thought. But his catastrophe mentality and doctrine of proletarian dictatorship wreaked colossal harm, his dismissal of ethical reason was baleful, and his fixation on collective ownership wrongly identified socialism—to the extent that he said anything about it—with a totalizing goal.
Postmodern theory has recently heightened the tendency of liberation theology to avoid fundamental questions about how socialization should work and how socialism meshes with democracy as means and end. Today, liberation theologians emphasize cultural criticism, identity politics, and postcolonial theory. A few take a pass at attacking capitalism, but most liberationists offer no economic analysis at all, and hardly anyone undertakes the hard work of exploring economic alternatives. Liberationists have made enormously important contributions to overcoming Old Left economism. The effort to democratize power must take place in what Manning Marable calls “the living place”—the post-industrial community where people struggle to create healthy and non-oppressive environments. It cannot focus exclusively on the point of production, as in Marxism, or the electoral arena, as in liberalism. Democratic socialism has to be deeply feminist, ecological, postcolonial, and multi-cultural. Otherwise it betrays what its own historic values of freedom, equality, and community mean in our time. I do not believe that some kind of left-wing economic populism is the sole basis of the progressive coalitional politics we need.
But we must not retreat to the view that existing relations of domination can be abolished without changing the factors of production and the structure of economic power. Cultural theory may appear to be more manageable and rewarding than the seemingly hopeless problem of economic inequality and domination. But every struggle for social justice has an economic dimension. We need economic democracy for the same reason we need political democracy—to restrain the abuse of unequal power and to make democratic self-determination a reality. Today we need, and are slowly getting—though not so much from my tribe of Christian social ethicists--work that explores what economic democracy should become. Socialism has never meant only one thing, although many have claimed otherwise, and the same thing is true of capitalism. We have to say clearly that the historic socialist focus on nationalization has led to the impasse at which even socialists avoid talking about economic alternatives. I take for granted that nationalization is one tool among others—occasionally necessary, but not generally preferred. Some of the socialist alternatives to it are as old as the socialist movement itself, and some are currently being imagined. But the new ideas are basically revisions of the old ones from the guild, syndical, and ethical traditions, refashioned to our circumstances. I am for exploring them: expanding the cooperative sector, building mixed forms of worker and community ownership, revisiting the syndical and guild visions of decentralized socialization, and especially along guild lines, experimenting with public bank and mutual fund models.
We need work that takes on the perennial problems that cooperatives have with external finance, innovation, competitiveness, and failing to expand. We need to renew the ideas behind the forsaken Meidner Plan in Sweden, which had a back-story in British guild socialism and the German labor movement. The Meidner Plan, which Sweden implemented in 1982, created democratic capital by imposing an annual 20 percent tax on major company profits payable in the form of shares to eight regional mutual funds. Worker, consumer, and government representatives controlled the funds, and as their proportion of stock ownership grew, these groups were collectively entitled to representation on company boards. Locals and branch funds jointly held voting rights of the employee shares. But the Social Democrats backed it tepidly, pushed by their union base to at least pretend to care about economic democracy, and the financial class raged against it furiously during its entire eight-year run. The plan expired in 1990 and the Social Democrats lost the 1991 election. When they regained power in 1994, they had to manage the turbulence of globalization and newly nationalized banks, so they dropped all talk about renewing the Meidner Plan. That was a plausible reaction, but to me, the basic idea of the Meidner Plan was spot-on for how economic democracy might be organized, financed, and theorized.
Mutual fund or public bank models of this kind are geared to solve the usual problems that cooperatives have with failing to expand, being insufficiently entrepreneurial, and falling behind on wages. But this solution relinquishes some of the democratic control that makes cooperatives attractive. How should the holding companies invest collectively owned social capital? How much control should they possess over their client enterprises? Is it feasible to separate entrepreneurial and production risks? Is it feasible to expect holding companies to bear capital risks without sharing in the profits they help to generate? I am influenced variously by Saul Estrin, Alec Nove, Raymond Plant, Joanne Barkan, David Miller, Robert Dahl, and David Belkin in this area, all of whom take seriously the failures of state socialism, the limitations of worker ownership, and the necessity of building up highly capitalized forms of economic democracy. The distinct advantage of the mutual fund approach is that it diversifies forms of risk sharing and promotes greater efficiency by forcing firms to be financially accountable to a broad range of investors. Cooperatives often miss market signals because of the conflicts of interest among cooperative owners, and cooperatives usually have no economic incentive to expand.
But the mutual fund approach weakens the democratic power of workers at the firm level, and the tepid Social Democratic backing for the Meidner Plan strangled it politically, since the funds were invested in conventional financial-class fashion instead of addressing infrastructure and social needs that people could see at work in their own neighborhoods. On the first problem, the trade-offs are tricky and ironic, since the whole point of economic democracy is to achieve democratic self-determination. To the extent that holding companies are granted supervisory control over their client enterprises, worker control is diminished. To the extent that holding companies are kept in a weak position, the advantages of the mutual fund model are traded off as the client enterprises essentially become cooperatives. On the second problem, there is no getting around that large-scale economic democracy will not work if the political will to make it work is lacking. Political leaders have to want it enough to fight for it, and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme did not.
Economic democracy theorists naturally tend to be radical democrats with communitarian impulses, so we place as much control as possible in human-scale organizations in which the distance between management and workers is minimized. This was hard enough after capitalism globalized in the 1880s. Second wave globalization has made capitalism more predatory than ever, and some economic sectors, especially those with large financing requirements, are very difficult for democratic firms of any kind. The ravages of more-predatory-than-ever are expanding the traditional cooperative sector and fueling new movements for worker and community ownership at the local level. Clearly that is where the action is today, probing for local spaces in which democratic enterprises can operate. I am all for that, but also for public banks that change what is possible. Conventional banks do not like cooperatives and will never finance them adequately. Those who control the terms, amounts, and direction of credit play an enormous role in determining the kind of society that everyone else lives in. Anything that democratizes the process of investment is a gain for a more just and ecologically sustainable world than the race-to-the-bottom world we have today.
There is no unitary answer to the problems of democratic trade-offs and hyper-competitive global markets. There is only the work of democratizing the factors of production, consumption, and investment in particular contexts and testing what works within them. On the control problem, I favor a circular model that is biased toward upholding the authority of the holding companies or public banks. The Mondragon network is spectacularly successful, and it would have failed long ago lacking a strong central bank and a circular model of ownership and control. Mondragon diversifies risk and builds sources of investment capital by creating second-degree cooperatives that hold shares in other cooperatives. But I am dogmatic only in opposing the blueprint mentality, not in stumping for Mondragon purity or Meidner II.
No scheme should be universalized, or touted as the next object of faith. Economic democracy is a project that must be built from the ground up, piece-by-piece, offering new choices and creating new forms of democratic power. Socialists were wrong to equate socialization with nationalization. They were wrong to reject production for profit and wrong to claim that state planners could replicate the complex pricing decisions of markets. Not all socialist theorists and traditions made these mistakes, but the mistakes came to define what “socialism” supposedly meant. Democratic socialism as economic democracy breaks from the universalizing logic of state socialism and two centuries of socialist blueprints. No political economy worth building would force workers into cooperatives they don’t want to join. But a politics that expanded the cooperative and social ownership sectors would create choices for workers that neoclassical theory promises without delivering. In the textbook world, capitalism doesn’t exploit anyone, because labor employs capital as much as capital employs labor. In the real world of capitalism, exploitation is terribly real.
I have led with economic democracy and will now swing back to Christian theology, the opposite of my usual tack with a different audience. In American religious communities I usually start with the Social Gospel, since all ecumenical Protestant and Catholic communities have it in their history. Today, with my eye on the clock, I am going to cut to three people who are enormously important figures in my life and perpetual interlocutors for me: William Temple, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Michael Harrington. Temple wrote philosophical theology, synthesized Hegel and Whitehead, advocated economic democracy and international cooperation, and became a global figure during World War II as Archbishop of Canterbury. I joined the Episcopal Church after reading his books, lacking any experience of it, so that is a measure of my debt to him. He produced some of the most profound Christian thought of this century, both philosophical and socialist, and near the end of his life developed a revised guild socialist model that thirty years later was dubbed the Meidner Plan. Temple called it a type of guild socialism, but otherwise mostly avoided the rhetoric of socialism, because he wanted to be heard, and he opposed any identification of Christianity with socialism.
Reducing his faith to any ideology was odious, even if they shared the same ethical values; moreover, the problem of socialism made Temple doubly averse to politicizing his faith. By the 1930s it seemed to him that socialism could not be disentangled in England from authoritarian state socialism. Even if clear majorities understood that socialists were opposed to Communism, the fact remained that Fabians and the Labour Party had long convinced Britons that socialism meant one thing, nationalization. Temple tired of pleading that socialism was more various than that. The point was not that Labour socialists wanted to nationalize everything. The mainstream of the Labour Party had never taken Clause Four of the Labour Constitution to mean that Labour should nationalize everything, or even everything big. Temple’s closest friend, economic historian R. H. Tawney, was outspoken on this subject. Moreover, Clause Four called for socialization, not nationalization. But Labour persuaded most Britons that socialism meant nationalization, however far it went, which stripped the socialist movement of its original ethical and communitarian impulses. Temple addressed the problem in Christianity and the Social Order (1942). He hoped to persuade every reader to support social and economic democracy, he said. But attributing divine sanction to any ideology is idolatrous, and the language of socialism was problematic. Temple said it was possible to promote economic democracy as a Christian ethical project without Christianizing socialist ideology; he proved the point by doing it.
In the United States, the hallmark thinker on this subject is Reinhold Niebuhr, who admired Temple but ended up differently, mostly because he was American and determined to be realistic. Niebuhr was the last theologian to make a significant impact on American politics. As such he is routinely held up as the model of how non-fundamentalist Christianity should speak to the dominant culture and seek to influence it. In a generation that experienced the apparent futility of social gospel idealism, Niebuhr gave American Protestantism an alternative rhetoric, politics, and theology. In the early 1930s he called the church to throw off its moralism to join the class struggle against a dying capitalist order. In the early 1940s he called the church to throw off its moralism to join the military struggle against fascism. In the late 1940s he called the church to throw off its moralism to join America’s global war against Communism. Niebuhr’s dialectical realism defined for his American liberal Protestant generation what the realities of politics and ethics were. More than any theologian of this century, Niebuhr compelled American readers to ask what it means to exercise power in a morally responsible way.
The social gospel was determinately idealistic because otherwise it had no way to bridge the gap between the love perfectionism of Jesus and the harsh realities of power politics. Niebuhr took for granted the social gospel mission of transforming the structures of society in the direction of social justice. The field in which he taught, social ethics, had no other history or basis for fifty years, and Niebuhr never relinquished the social activism of the social gospel. But he decided in the 1930s that social gospel idealism was too idealistic, rationalistic, and inclined toward pacifism. Niebuhr’s first substitute for idealism was Marxism, which he adopted in 1932. By 1940 he was letting go of Marx in favor of Augustinian realism, still with a democratic socialist slant, but after World War II he gave up on democratic socialism and joined the mainstream of the Democratic Party, repenting of ridiculing the New Deal. With each adjustment he got clearer about how to translate Christian ethics into secular terms. The social mission of Christianity was not to struggle for a biblical vision of justice, community, and peace, as the social gospel claimed, but to provide religious support for a secular, liberal, Democratic Party agenda.
Niebuhr made a major contribution to social ethics by emphasizing the reality of evil in individuals and institutions. Only individuals are capable of moral decisions, all individuals are morally shabby, and there is no such thing as a moral group. Thus his most famous book was titled, Moral Man and Immoral Society. Persistently and powerfully, Niebuhr drove home that every social gain creates the possibility of new forms of social evil. This determination to be realistic, however, eviscerated the vision of a good society that inspired Niebuhr to become a social ethicist in the first place. The passion for economic justice that fueled his early work gave way to the status quo politics of the “Vital Center” Democratic establishment. He stopped writing about economic justice, since Adlai Stevenson versus Dwight Eisenhower had little to do with economic justice. On civil rights, Niebuhr advised Stevenson to go slow and not get ahead of Eisenhower—which meant doing almost nothing. Stevenson’s fateful statements about proceeding gradually were exactly what Niebuhr advised him to say, with the blessing of Christian ethics. Niebuhr’s influential realism restricted itself to marginal reforms within the existing system. The borders of possibility went untested.
The Christian Marxist Niebuhr of the 1930s and the still-hanging-in-there socialist Niebuhr of the early 1940s went on to rationalize the accommodation of mainline Protestantism to the dominant order. The social gospel socialism of Rauschenbusch and Ransom, with all its faults and failures, at least took up the public struggle for justice in the language of the social gospel, in the way of the social gospel, and for social gospel reasons. Niebuhrian realism got rid of all that, translating liberal Protestant ethics into secular terms indistinguishable from the Democratic Party establishment. This strategy made Niebuhr a player in Democratic Party politics and fit the ethos of liberal Protestantism during its last gasp as a culturally dominant force and custodian of America’s moral character. But the liberal Protestant establishment that Niebuhr took for granted is so far gone that I struggle to convey to students what it was.
I have suggested that Niebuhr’s approach to religion, for all his unsurpassed influence, undercut the role he wanted progressive religious communities to play in American politics. I do not mean that liberal Protestantism could have had a longer run had it stuck to the social gospel, or anything of that sort. Liberal Protestantism crashed because it never outgrew its ethnic families of origin and it failed even to replace itself demographically. Nothing else that did not change the first factor had any chance of stemming the downfall of liberal Protestantism. I do mean that social gospel radicalism is more relevant and promising today than any form of the critique that demolished it—Niebuhrian realism. Every form of liberation theology has an antecedent in the social gospel, and the social gospel commitment to economic democracy is as needed today as it was a hundred years ago.
I am going to end in ironic mode by saying something quite similar about Michael Harrington—another person of great importance to me whose thinking about religion undercut the role he wanted progressive religious communities to play in American politics. Mike was a reasonably good Marxist who labored hard to make Marx sound more democratic than he was. He believed for Marxist reasons that religion was passing into oblivion, but he also worried about something that Marx lost no sleep over: How shall Western societies inspire people to care about their own moral character or that of their society? If religious ideas about the existence of moral truth go down with the religions, what will happen to the virtues and to common values?
Mike had a staggering ambition for democratic socialism—to provide the legitimizing and integrating principle for Western societies that Christianity once provided. In The Politics at God’s Funeral (1983) he called for a united front of religious and secular socialists to redeem the values of religious socialism and fill the void left by terminal Western religions. The new socialist united front, he wrote, would recover the values of progressive Judaism and Christianity, “but not in religious form.” It would require the religious wing to subordinate its religious concerns to the needs of the movement in order to promote the ethical values it held in common with other socialists. Mike believed that progressive religious values could survive without religion and he assumed that the religions were dying anyway. Socialism was a vehicle to keep progressive religious values alive.
“But Mike,” I would say, “what if religion isn’t dying? What if religion has a better chance of surviving than socialism, because Schleiermacher was right about the human impulse for mystery and sacred relationship? And what if the socialist movement you want needs living, vital religious communities to sustain itself?” I never got very far with him on this subject. Marx and Freud had set Mike straight about religion, and he wasn’t interested in rethinking that business, much as it gnawed at him. Back then the outright Christian flank of DSA was really strong. We puzzled at the lack of a similar self-identifying Jewish contingent, but the Christian group provided ample leadership for DSA at the local and national levels: Cornel West, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Joe Holland, Maxine Phillips, Michael Eric Dyson, Harvey Cox, Juanita Webster, John C. Cort, Peter Steinfels, Norm Faramelli, and others. Mike liked, very much, that DSA had so many theological types. A few of us started with DSOC, synergy occurred with the DSA merger, and most of us were very much at home in the multi-tendency socialism of DSA that fused the Old Left, the New Left, and the social movements of the 1970s and ‘80s. But it depressed him to think that any of us was right about religion having a stronger future than socialism.
Mike was an example of his proposal. His religious background and scholastic education drilled into him irreparably that religion is about believing certain things, but he was religiously musical, plus deeply influenced by Christian ethical teaching. He had an eschatology, which he offered many times at the end of a speech. He would say, “If you consider your country to be capable of democratic socialism, you must do two things. First, you must deeply love and trust your country. You must sense the dignity and humanity of the people who survive and grow within your country despite the injustice of its system. And second, you must recognize that the social vision to which you are committing yourself will never be fulfilled in your lifetime.”
In the early 1970s the social ethics position at the University of Chicago Divinity School became available, and the faculty discussed offering it to Harrington. They noted that his book The Accidental Century was a gem of social criticism; that his book Socialism was a major scholarly work; and that The Other America was, as everyone said, the book that launched the Great Society war on poverty. Mike’s atheism gave them only slight pause, because most prestigious divinity schools have atheists on the faculty. The unsettling question was whether he could teach social ethics or would even know what it was. A pro-Harrington faction argued that he would be asked to teach the sort of thing he wrote. Surely that was social ethics, whatever social ethics was. If Reinhold Niebuhr was the model social ethicist, surely it could be done without possessing the expertise of a scholarly guild. But this argument was too unsettling to prevail, and Harrington ended up teaching at Queens College. A year before Mike’s death, I spoke at Chicago, heard the story from Divinity School dean Franklin Gamwell, and relayed it to Mike. He lit up with delight: “Can you imagine me as a divinity professor?”
Actually, I could. Scripture says, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” And so it is.
Twenty-one years later, my circumstances have changed significantly, but my core convictions have changed, apparently, not at all. In 1996 my beloved spouse, Brenda, was in the sixth year of her ten-year battle for life, my daughter, Sara, was ten years old, and I was a second-career academic at Kalamazoo College. The campaign to reelect the demoralizing Bill Clinton was underway, and I had published a big book the previous year titled Soul in Society: The Making and Renewal of Social Christianity. I did not accept out-of-town speaking invitations during this period, but when the invitation came from CUNY Graduate Center, not speaking about Mike was not an option. I was almost a charter member of DSOC, joining in 1974. I co-founded two chapters, served on various national boards and as president of a large DSA chapter in Albany, New York, and cannot imagine most of my career had there been no Michael Harrington. The CUNY conference teemed with people whose lives changed when Mike spoke at their campus.
The issue of cultural accommodation played a large role in my book of the previous year, and apparently I was still talking about it a year later, in the section on Reinhold Niebuhr. This theme grew tiresome for me in succeeding years, but in religious communities it is a perennial concern, and there is an equally long tradition of struggling with it in modern theology. We are never finished with the question of how to ward off the toxic and corrupting aspects of the dominant culture without making a fetish of marginality, counter-cultural righteousness, or sectarian purity. The influence of Temple and Niebuhr over me is ironic, inasmuch as both were pillars of religious establishments that I never experienced and now struggle to imagine. Church Christianity was a given for them in ways that it never was for me. But I respect that both figures had deep wellsprings of spiritual conviction and tried to make the Christianity of their time relevant to current movements for social justice. Temple, moreover, was a Hegel buff, and Hegel hooked me long before I heard of Temple.
This talk focused on one subject, economic democracy, and three people, with a thirty-minute time limit, so each of its topics got squeezed and there was no time for anything else. It registers the demoralizing impact of the Clinton presidency without going into all that. After my partner died and I hit the lecture circuit, I spoke constantly against TINA--There is no alternative. I wrote books on myth interpretation, the Barthian revolt, and other theological topics, but on the lecture circuit, when given a choice, I always spoke against the deflating assumption that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism. I stuck to that theme until President George W. Bush geared up to invade Iraq, after which I went all-out against the war.
My only misgiving about seeing this talk recycled today is that there is no need to rehash the shortcomings of liberation theology concerning economic justice and the economics of socialism. Several scholars have since written books on this topic, and my friend Ivan Petrella, an Argentine liberationist by way of political theory, has written two notable books pressing this argument more stringently than I ever believed. It is disappointing that Franz Hinkelammert had few liberationist successors in taking up the hard work of economic theory and policy. This deficiency radiated far beyond the schools of liberation theology, however. Except for Walter Muelder and Philip Wogaman, the entire field of social ethics dropped the subject, following Niebuhr’s example. Restoring this subject to the role it once had in social ethics and theology will take many years, now in the context of a colossal ecological crisis demanding new economic thinking. Joerg Rieger at Vanderbilt, Kathy Tanner at Yale, Steve Long at Southern Methodist, and others are providing fresh theological thinking in this area and, more important, training the next generation in it.
Author’s Note: My own work on this subject is scattered through many books and concentrated, most recently, in two books: Economy, Difference, Empire, published in 2010, and Imagining Democratic Socialism: Theology, Marxism, and the Making of Social Democracy, currently forthcoming. The latter book has two centuries of history to cover in two national contexts, Germany and Britain, so another book will follow it that speaks to our moment. I believe it is important to know what happened in the past, and especially, what went wrong. But all of that is just the warm-up for figuring out what we need to do today.