In this episode of the podcast, Vaneesa Cook
discusses her new book Spiritual Socialists: Religion and the American Left
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). The book shows that there is a deep religious strain within the American Left despite contrary common perceptions. Leftists Cook calls spiritual socialists believed the basic expression of religious values—caring for the sick, tired, hungry, and exploited members of one's community—was key to creating a functioning and more equal society. They emphasized these aspects of socialism and sought to implement them through their own actions and through a bottom up approach to activism. The book discusses a group of activists who practiced and shaped this intellectual tradition.
In the episode, Cook discusses what she means by the term “spiritual socialists,” some of the individuals she discusses in her book, and how they distinguished themselves from communists both in their belief system and in the context of multiple American Red Scares. Cook also talks about her research process and some ways her book might be useful for thinking about the contemporary American political landscape.
Christine Lamberson is a historian. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. She’s currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s.