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The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington

Public Affairs Press

By Maurice Isserman
Posted January 1, 2001
Tags Faculty Books
Maurice Isserman's bracingly honest, surprisingly touching biography traces the life of one of the heroes of the American Left and one of our country's most influential social critics and poverty experts. Most Americans first heard of Michael Harrington with the publication of The Other America, his seminal book on American poverty. Isserman expertly tracks Harrington's beginnings in the Catholic Worker movement, his abandonment of his once deeply-held Catholicism, his life in 1950s Greenwich Village, and his evolution as a thinker. Along the way Isserman dispels numerous myths, including several Harrington himself encouraged. And Isserman explains why Harrington, who more than any other single individual seemed perfectly positioned to play the role of adult mentor to the New Left in the 1960s, instead fell into disfavor with young campus activists, and lost the opportunity of a lifetime to make his democratic Socialist perspective a relevant force in American politics.

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