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The American Left

Its Impact on Politics and Society since 1900

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

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How left-wing politics has shaped life in the USA, from the 1900s to the present day

Winner of the American Politics Group’s 2013 Neustadt Book Prize

Only the American right has ever really recognised the potency of the American left. Now, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones fully details the left’s numerous achievements, including the welfare state, opposing militarism, reshaping of American culture, black rights and civil liberties, awakening the USA to the dangers of fascism and great public enterprises such as the late Twin Towers.

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1. A Crisis in Progressive Confidence
2. The Socialist Origins of Social Security
3. Early Achievers on the American Left
4. Socialists in Congress
5. The Identification of America and its Fascist Enemy
6. The New Deal’s Undeclared Socialism
7. The Republican Re-invention of Socialism
8. The New Left Shares the Credit
9. The Newer Left
10. The Republican Road to Nationalization
11. Obama: A President for the Left?
Appendix: Defining the Left and Adjacent Terms
Abbreviations used in the Notes

About the Author

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is professor emeritus of American History at the University of Edinburgh. He took his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and has been a postdoctoral fellow and visiting professor at the Universities of Harvard and Toronto. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Changing Differences: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy and Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War.


Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has written a splendidly provocative study with insights on nearly every page. Anyone who cares about the tangled but consequential history of American radicalism and reform should read this book.

- Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation and editor of Dissent

To this refreshing, provocative volume, veteran historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones brings a lifetime’s knowledge and thought. In a sprightly assault on the conventional wisdom, he demonstrates with a wonderfully eclectic range of examples the effectiveness of the American left and its central role in the shaping of modern American life.

- Michael Heale, Lancaster University

The American Left provides a sweeping overview of the American leftwing and socialist tradition since the late 19th century. It compellingly argues that progressives should cease to dismiss its importance. Instead they should acknowledge its ties with and enormous influence on American progressives. It shows that the American left has made a large contribution to the American Welfare State, changes in social policy and has often been a model for left of centre movements abroad. The committee was unanimous in awarding the prize.

- Tom Packer, Chair of the Prize Committee , The American Politics Group - Richard Neustadt Book Prize 2013

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