A Telling Look At 'The Man Who Discovered Poverty'
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One of the most influential books of the last 50 years was "The Other America" by Michael Harrington, subtitled "Poverty in America" and first published in 1962. Not only did this eloquently compressed book (it ran fewer than 200 pages) influence public policy, begining in the Kennedy administration and continuing with the Johnson administration's War on Poverty, but it inspired tens of thousands of young Americans to join VISTA or the Peace Corps and try to change the world Harrington had raged against. Harrington died almost 11 years ago, and a full-scale biography is most welcome. In Maurice Isserman, he has found an admiring, but critical, biographer. It is a tribute to his skill that Isserman, a leading historian of the American left and a history professor at Hamilton College, is as understanding of Harrington's "discovery" of poverty in the Catholic Worker movement as he is of Harrington's efforts to find a solution through socialism.