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Democratic socialism is on the rise in the United States, but it’s been a dominant force for far longer in Europe. Ask Bernie Sanders to define his ideology and he doesn’t start naming political theorists; he points across the Atlantic. “Go to countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden,” he says.

The populist right is on the rise in the United States too, and that’s also been a powerful force for far longer in Europe. The mix of economic populism and resentful nationalism that Donald Trump ran on in 2016 and Tucker Carlson offers up nightly on Fox News might be unusual here, but it’s commonplace there.

Understanding Europe’s politics, then, is of particular help right now for understanding our own. Sheri Berman is a political scientist at Barnard College, as well as the author of multiple books on European social democracy. We discussed what separates social democrats from progressives and neoliberals, how the populist right co-opted the European left, why social democrats lost ground in the ’90s to Blairite technocrats, whether multi-party political systems work better than our own, and why identity issues tend to unite the right and split the left. Berman is masterful in clearly synthesizing politics across countries and time periods, so there’s a lot to learn in this one.

Book recommendations:

Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Others Fall Apartby Andreas Wimmer

The Meaning of Race: Race, History, and Culture in Western Societyby Kenan Malik

Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognitionby Charles Taylor and Amy Gutmann

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