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Also known as milwaukee socialism, the term sewer socialism derives from the policies and practices of Socialists who ran the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term is now broadly used for political leadership that focuses on programs of reform and development that accomplish positive changes in infrastructure, educational systems, or other aspects of urban life.

The Socialists who won election to Milwaukee's city government rejected the ideas of Progressivism as appropriate for reforming the activities of industry and its socio-economic consequences. The Social Democrats, led by Victor Berger, an Austrian immigrant, sought to reform the political culture and the environment of Milwaukee that had developed in the era of laissez-faire capitalism. Berger was editor and publisher of Wisconsin ...

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