Democratic socialists are selling us a system that no longer works

Yet democratic socialism somehow presumes a large body of workers eager to rush into the time-consuming and often tedious work of what social scientists call “thick civic engagement”: doing things not one-on-one, but as a group, with all the politicking, boring meetings and inconvenient obligations that implies. Unless most American workers are prepared to be active participants in their union local or work council, the radical new system would look a lot like the old one, except with the power resting in the hands of a government bureaucrat or union leader just as unaccountable and pettifogging as the hated “boss.”

Unfortunately, America seems to be running in the opposite direction, avoiding as much as possible any direct interaction with other people: ordering from an online site rather than going to the store, texting or emailing rather than making a phone call, organizing friendships around social-media sites instead of social events.

Which leaves democratic socialists with something of a dilemma: selling a system that can only work as promised in tandem with a culture of civic engagement we no longer have.

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