A conversation between Daniel Soyer and Robert W. Snyder about Daniel Soyer’s new book, Left in the Center: The Liberal Party of New York and the Rise and Fall of American Social Democracy (Cornell, 2022).
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, New Yorkers benefited from a kind of social-democracy-in-one-city unusual in the United States. Also unusual were the strong minor parties that played an important role in New York’s politics and helped formulate its social policy. Chief among these was the Liberal Party, which drew support especially from the garment unions and the city’s working- and middle-class Jewish community. In its heyday, the party could mobilize tens of thousands of people, many of them union members, and sway elections. By the end of the 20th century, New York’s social democracy was in tatters, and many charged that the Liberal Party had degenerated into a cynical patronage machine. Daniel Soyer discusses the roots of the Liberal Party and New York’s brand of social liberalism in the Jewish immigrant labor and Socialist movements, their infusion into mainstream politics, their influence on the city and state, and their decline — along with their Jewish ethnic base — toward the end of the century. While the Liberal Party no longer exists, small parties like the Working Families and Conservative Parties still play a significant role in local politics, and so lessons drawn from the Liberal Party’s history are still relevant today.
You can get a 30% discount with code 09BCARD from Cornell University Press when you order the book from Cornell University Press.
Daniel Soyer is a professor of history and Jewish studies at Fordham University and editor of The Jewish Metropolis: New York City from the 17th to the 21st Century (Academic Studies Press, 2021). In addition to his most recent book, he has published The Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, 1840-1920 (NYU, 2012), co-written with Annie Polland and winner of a National Jewish Book Award, and Jewish Immigrant Associations and American Identity in New York, 1880-1939 (Harvard, 1997), winner of the Saul Viener Award of the American Jewish Historical Society. He also is co-editor of the journal American Jewish History.
Robert W. Snyder has devoted his career to writing and teaching about the history of New York City. Currently editing a documentary history of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, he is the Manhattan borough historian and professor emeritus of American studies and journalism at Rutgers University. He writes for both scholars and the general public in such books as Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York and All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York. He has consulted for both the Museum of the City of New York and the Smithsonian Institution. A former Fulbright lecturer in American studies in Korea and a member of the New York Academy History, he lives in Manhattan.
This event is open to alumni, faculty/staff, parents, students, and the public.