Overview of Socialism 12.08Presentation Transcript
Socialism An overview 04.11.08
There is no point in searching the encyclopaedias for a definitive meaning of socialism; it has none and never could. Anthony Crosland
An optimistic view of human nature
An optimistic view of human nature Humans are essentially social, cooperative and altruistic. Where it is not, this is the fault of nurture rather than nature. Human nature is ‘plastic’.
Collectivism A belief that humans operate best in cooperative social groups. A belief that humans working collaboratively are more efficient than humans working in a selfish, competitive environment.
Egalitarianism A defining doctrine of socialism is a belief in far-reaching equality of outcome.
Social justice A fair and equitable distribution of resources and rewards.
Democracy Socialism should mean equality of ‘people power’ as wealth of wealth, rights and opportunities.
Revolutionary and Evolutionary socialism
Revolutionary socialism Revolutionary socialists seek the complete overthrow of the capitalist economy and state, and the achievement of an egalitarian society based upon common ownership. However, they disagree upon the details of how to achieve this.
Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Evolutionary socialism Evolutionary socialists seek the gradual reform by the parliamentary road i.e. by the ballot box rather than by a mass uprising of workers. They have, therefore, accepted the liberal framework of pluralist, parliamentary democracy. Their goals are usually – but not always – more limited and moderate than those of the revolutionary communists.
Utopian socialism A utopia is any ideal society, system or way of life. Utopianism – devised by Thomas More in Utopia - is a form of theorising about a perfect but non-existent society. The positive concept of utopianism implies a highly optimistic view of human nature as perfectible The negative concept of utopianism implies an over-optimistic view of human nature and an idealistic, moralistic style of theorising that envisages an unattainable fantasy.
Utopian socialists Robert Owen (1771-1858, British) Charles Fourier (1772-1837, French) Etienne Cabet (1788-1858, American) Each tried to build a utopia that would counter the evils of industrial society and allow humans to flourish asd rational and fulfilled beings. Owen’s community was renowned for good quality housing and education. Fourier saw sexual liberation as a necessary aspect of human liberation. Cabet envisaged a centralised state in which material wealth would be shared equally.
Marxism Marxism is a materialist theory – it sees economic factors as primary. Engels applied the label of ‘dialectical materialism’ to Marx’s theory of historical progress through economic conflict. Marxism perceives human nature as a series of class societies, most of which contain 2 main classes: a ruling class and a subject class.
Key Marxist concepts
Class - The Frost Report
Dictatorship of the proletariat
The withering away of the state
Parliamentary socialism Evolutionary socialists have largely revised or abandoned the original and fundamentalist principles of revolutionary theory, and now seek gradual reform by the parliamentary road. They see socialism as an end in itself rather than as a transitional phase towards classless communism, and their goals are usually more limited than those of communism.
Why has parliamentary socialism developed?
Extension of the franchise
A strengthening attachment to the state
Rising living standards
Structural changes and technological advances
Reforms, rights and freedoms already won
Strong capitalist states
Eduard Bernstein Tony Benn
Evolutionary parliamentary socialism includes New Labour Social democracy Democratic socialism Eurocommunism
Democratic socialism versus social democracy
Democratic socialism versus social democracy In the first half of the 20th century, parliamentary socialists pursued radical, left-wing democratic socialism. It sought extensive state nationalisation, redistribution and welfarism, together with the acceptance of some private ownership. The UK Labour Party’s Clause Four, symbolised this. In the economic boom that followed WW2, most parliamentary socialists came to embrace a revisionist form of socialism – Keynesian social democracy – which practised the politics of social justice redefined as moderate redistribution and welfare in a mixed, mainly private economy.
Why was there post-war revisionism?
The Cold War
An increasingly affluent working class
Capitalist states becoming stronger
Mainly collective economy
Extensive welfare state
Anti private health/ education
Abolish House of Lords
Unilateral nuclear disarmament
More emphasis on goals
Mainly private economy
Freedom and fairness
Extended welfare state
Reform House of Lords
Multilateral nuclear disarmament
More emphasis on means
The Third Way
Traditional socialism, even Keynesian social democracy was no longer viable.
Acceptance of the market over the state.
Emphasis on community and moral responsibility rather than egoistic individualism.
Pursuit of consensus rather than conflict.
Belief in social inclusion.
Provision of an enabling state rather than a nanny state.