The news is out: “millennials” hold socialism in high regard.
The Sanders campaign seems to have brought the idea, or at least the word, back in from the margins and made it appealing. Two years on, with midterm elections looming, others have picked up the ball and are running with it.
This is good news, even if it is far from clear what today’s newly minted “democratic socialists” have in mind — beyond opposition to capitalism or perhaps only to prevailing forms of capitalism. Because “socialism” can mean all kinds of things or nothing very specific at all, there are a lot of possibilities.
This has been the case ever since Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) brought the word into common usage. With self-identified socialists missing from mainstream American politics for many generations, the ambiguities and imprecisions that have clustered around the notion from Day One are especially severe nowadays.
Contestation over what socialism is has given rise to problems in the past, and will likely do so again. For here and now, though, it may actually be best just to let the word in and see what comes out.
We mustn’t wait too long, however. What is going on now may be salutary, but there are limits; there can be too much of a good thing.
What there is plenty of now is creative enthusiasm. It should be encouraged and nurtured, not stifled by calls for more precision than circumstances warrant or by efforts to bring disparate views into line.