The Other American

The Life of

Michael Harrington


Maurice Isserman


Public Affairs Press



Read the Introduction

In the pages to follow I will be following Michael Harrington's life through three overlapping and interrelated stories. There is, first of all, the story of Michael Harrington, the "man who discovered poverty," and the consequences of that discovery for Michael and for the nation. Secondly, there is the story of Michael Harrington, the heir to Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas as America's foremost socialist and the decidedly mixed success of his efforts of over a quarter-century to create a "left-wing of the possible." And, finally, there is the story of Michael Harrington's personal transformation from golden youth to a kind of secular Saint Francis of Assisi--a legend that Michael helped create, and yet at the same time at whose restrictions he chafed. … Just over a year before he died of cancer in 1989 at the age of sixty-one, Michael Harrington remarked to an interviewer, "It's almost as if my life has been a well-plotted story. Almost."

The Author

Maurice Isserman, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of History, at Hamilton College

The Reviews

....Maurice Isserman shows in his compelling new biography, Harrington's fame as a chronicler of poverty during the age of affluence was an almost accidental result of his long and sometimes frustrating crusade to continue the democratic socialist legacy of Eugen V. Debs and Norman Thomas in the second half of the 20th Century.

Tara Fitzpatrick
Chicago Tribune
Historian and Director of Foundations
and Corporations at Mt. Holyoke College

Isserman explores Michael Harrington's life from his foundation in Catholicism to his later advocacy of a democratic socialism, and carefully explores the political and intellectual turns that gave Harrington's evolving critique its power.

Nick Salvatore
Author of Eugene V. Debs and
We All Got History

… I recognized in Professor Isserman's fluently written book the man that I and many others in the labor movement greatly admired. This is an important reading for anyone concerned with the unfinished agenda of ending poverty in America.

John J. Sweeney
President, AFL-CIO

There is much to admire in his life [Michael Harrington] -- his personal courage, his commitment to social justice, and his lifelong devotion to creating a democratic-socialist movement in a nation in which it was least possible. In Maurice Isserman, he has a biographer who does justice to his life's work.

Ronald Radosh
National Review
Senior Research Associate at the Center
for Communitarian Policy Studies at
George Washington University

The new book by historian Maurice Isserman can be ranked as a serious political event because Harrington, … was the most important and creative figure on the American left in the last half-century.

E.J. Dionne Jr.
The Washington Post

Maurice Isserman correctly characterizes "The Other America" as a simple book with an easily grasped thesis: that widespread poverty existed in the midst of the nation's prosperity… The invisible poor became visible.

Myron A. Marty;
Special to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…Isserman's book is compulsively readable, at least for anyone who cares about the sectarian split-ups and reformations that he patiently traces.

Alan Wolfe
The New Republic


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