Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States

Non-Fiction - Social Issues
812 Pages
Reviewed on 11/18/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Keith Mbuya for Readers' Favorite

In his book Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States, Phillip Bryson delves deeper into the subject of socialism and its history by answering virtually every question on the subject. These include the origins of socialism, and the theories, concepts, and brains behind them (he also includes concepts of capitalism for a better understanding of socialism’s origins). He includes the implementation of socialism in parts of Eastern Central, Western Europe, and the far East, and its outcome, the failed attempts to adopt socialism in the United States and so much more. Get yourself a copy of Socialism to learn more.

Socialism is as much an interesting economic − and governance − system as capitalism and the other systems. Some of the world’s most powerful nations successfully adopted socialism but the system failed. Socialism has been advocated for by prominent political leaders in history, and it still garners support from some political leaders to date. Phillip Bryson’s Socialism is a must-read for enthusiasts of non-fiction political and government books. Phillip’s discourse for his compelling and lengthy read has an enormous intellectual and philosophical depth. He undoubtedly has a rich background in historical and political affairs. I learned so much about demand and supply, corporate power, economic theories, and the government’s working in this book. Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States is a magnificent piece of work.

Asher Syed

Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States is a textbook-style non-fiction book by Phillip Bryson that takes a hard-line look at the titular economic philosophy of social ownership. Bryson goes back to ideas of socialism from antiquity and rounds up historical schools of thought from theorists that run the gauntlet from the Tudor period and the Age of Enlightenment to early modern, modern, and Revolutionary socialism, all pinpointed throughout the book as each model, its champions and detractors, and how the ideas and models either collapsed and fell flat or never took flight at all. Bryson connects the dots between the impact of systems domestically within their borders and the global economy as a whole, ultimately arguing the parallels between historical failure and those deemed to be modern equivalents in the 21st century. Bryson's position and desire for the future of the United States as a country without socialist ideologies are clear.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not American and am a naturalized British citizen having grown up in a third-world country. When I read a book like Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States, the lens I read the words through is as a child who grew up in a single-room cinder-block 'house' with a corrugated tin roof. Phillip Bryson writes from a position of academic authority and I read his work with a stomach that is now full but was not always. Bryson has some lived experiences and I do too, although mine are by virtue of where I was born and not where I made a choice to live or work, or with the luxury of a vote to soften the blow. Bryson does address this to a certain extent in talking about relative affluence, mostly between working-class Europeans and Americans. I enjoyed reading Socialism for its intensive, exhaustively researched content and flawless writing style. Bryson's work isn't a volume you cozy up next to the fire with hot cocoa and read in a few sittings, but the insight, history, and arguments it provides are vigorous and make it tough to put down.

Jamie Michele

Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States by Phillip Bryson is a non-fiction book that offers a comprehensive view of socialism on the global scale and, more specifically, its fluid posturing within the United States. Bryson, a university professor of economics, breaks his book down into three distinct and interconnected parts. Bryson starts with the genesis of socialism, the drivers behind it, and the expansions that came on the backs of what, in simplest terms, could be described as a way for religious and political elites to control the economies of the times. There is also what appears to me, the lay reader, to be the start of Bryson's economic love affair with the grand primo of economics, Adam Smith. Bryson delves into the Soviet systems and his first-hand experiences within them, the evolution of socialism, and its application worldwide, including the welfare state of India. The culmination is a hybrid academic lesson-slash-opinion based on a lifetime of teaching and study and the argument by Bryson as to why socialism in the United States is a no-no.

My mother died at the young age of 43 years old following an 11-year battle with breast cancer. The prognosis was never great. It was advanced. It was aggressive. It was resistant... but she was offered something that only someone with the ability to pay a quarter-of-a-million dollars could have: experimental, privately financed [by her] stem-cell replacement surgery by the medical mind hive at Stanford. When staring down the barrel of a gun it is amazing what a family can make happen, and she got that surgery. It's estimated she lived about six years longer than someone without the resources to pay. I bring this up only because Phillip Bryson himself brings it up in his book Socialism, 497 pages in which he quotes Sassoon. For the record, I had to look up what 'iniquitous' meant but can assure readers that, overall, Bryson's book is written at a reading level perfect for mass consumption. I am a lover of academic articles and texts and Socialism is mercifully free of pretentious babble and thesaurus-slinging. Do I agree with Bryson? It's pretty hard to disagree with the facts and figures, which he provides. He also addresses on several fronts that there is a soul to socialism, but the soulless in command of political and economic decision-making have not historically proven their ability to use their vast power for good. I can't say I think capitalism is the answer to this, but I also can't ignore that there are compelling arguments in favor of it. One thing I've learned is that it is possible to appreciate the literary merit of a text regardless of which side you view it from, and in this case, I can safely say that Bryson is a man of both intellectual and literary merit. Capitalism the argument? On the fence. Socialism the book? Very highly recommended.

Rabia Tanveer

Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States by Phillip Bryson focuses on how socialism can affect the economics of a country. The commentary is divided into three parts, each one looking at a different aspect and analyzing it with a depth that is both entertaining and educational. The first part is a guide to what socialism is, how it affects markets, and why socialism benefits society. The second part focuses on the Marxist-Leninist economic system in some European countries and how that ideology changed those countries for better or worse. The final part reflects on why the system failed in the United States. Bryson reflects on the downfall of socialism and why it could never work in a society such as America.

Rich with information, Socialism is the perfect companion for any student or teacher who wants a cohesive yet well-researched book on socialism. It takes a lifetime to gather all this data, and Philip Bryson does a great job of sharing the information without making the contents too dry. I was thoroughly entertained as I read this tome! I had my notebook out and jotted down point after point. I can only imagine how much this book will help students with their research. Kudos to the author for all the hard work. Each part focuses on an important aspect of socialism and provides everything an interested reader could ask for. The narrative style is perfect, the simple yet powerful vocabulary used is appropriate, and the overall impact of this book is tremendous.

K.C. Finn

Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States is a work of non-fiction that explores politics and economics. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Phillip J. Bryson. In this three-part treatise on the topic of socialism, Bryson analyzes the concept from many different angles to explore how a viable new model of modern socialism might work in the United States today. By analyzing previous socialist attempts in US history as well as the Marxist-Leninist model that persisted in Europe for most of the twentieth century, Bryson reaches many solid conclusions as to what socialism might be for modern America, and what it could do to help with redistribution and balance.

It is deeply refreshing to read a lengthy and practical observation of modern and past socialism that does not attempt to gloss over its previous flaws and oppositions. Rather, author Phillip J. Bryson embraces these issues as challenges for deep consideration, and in return, he offers even more watertight arguments for viability and usefulness in the future. I also felt that the work was organized in a really accessible way, and I think that students new to the worlds of both sociology and economics will find much that they can connect with and learn from right off the bat within this excellent treatise. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Socialism: Origins, Expansion, Decline, and the Attempted Revival in the United States to any reader seeking to better their knowledge on this topic and do so in a fairly balanced way without the need for flashy rhetoric or aggressive political stances that often blur the message in the modern world.