Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained democratic socialism and capitalism at SXSW

Image: Reuters/Sergio Flores
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

South by Southwest (SXSW) isn’t exactly a hotbed of progressive politics: Though the music, film, and media festival has become a major cultural event in American life, one wouldn’t expect members of the US Congress to draw larger crowds than Silicon Valley executives.

Yet, on a day when several high-profile politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke took the stage, the star was freshman congresswoman and instant Democratic Party phenomenon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, otherwise known as AOC. Attendees tweeted of long lines and a full house, with some leaving the venue without being able to squeeze in.

On stage, Ocasio-Cortez talked today about the hot topics of her political agenda, touching upon identity politics, the Green New Deal, the promise of automation, and the obstacles faced by minorities.

On the last point, she advised, “Stop trying to navigate systems that weren’t built for you. We need to build new systems.”

Ocasio-Cortez also got to discuss an historically thorny topic in American politics: socialism. Addressing the rising popularity of socialism, and the fearmongering that it will mean an end of individual rights, she used simple semantics to explain why she doesn’t believe in unmitigated capitalism (at the 33:50 mark in the video below), saying in part:

Capitalism, to me, is an ideology of capital. The most important thing is the concentration of capital, and it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental cost… But when we talk about ideas for example like democratic socialism, it means putting democracy and society first, instead of capital first.

Like much of her interview, her explanation drew applause and support from the audience—the kind of reaction that, in many previous editions of SXSW, might have been reserved for startup founders or movie stars.