is a political ideology created in Europe in the 19th century,
emerging as a response to the social and economic conditions brought by the
growth of the industrial capitalism, due to the industrial revolution that was
taking place in Europe and that changed the life of millions.
The term “socialist” was first used in
the London Co-operative Magazine in
1827, which discussed that the issue was whether the capital should be owned
individually or by the community and by the 1840s the term “socialism” was
known in most of the industrialized countries, like Britain, France or Belgium.
As all the political ideologies, it is
not easy to define what socialism is without minimizing the differences between
the vary interpretations of it like Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Social
Democracy etc., but in all of its different forms socialism has certain
fundamental characteristics that will be discuss and analyze in this essay.
They key principles of socialism can be identified in this five concepts which
are: Community, Cooperation,
class and Common ownership (Political ideologies).
the English poet John Dunne said “no man is an Island entire of itself”, Socialism
believes that human as social creatures are able to overcome social and
economic problems through the power of the community rather than individual
Human nature can also change and it is
not fixed but it is determinate by the society where we live, which is the
place where people learn skills and human behaviors, meaning that those are not
natural but instead are conditions made by the society itself where the
individual lives. Society makes people selfish and aggressive because they live
in a capitalistic system, not because of their human nature, forcing them to
seek just the profit. Capitalism concentrates the wealth of the society in the
hands of few individuals leaving the majority in poverty, such concept is
unacceptable by Socialism.
The belief that human beings are
self-sufficient is false for socialists and they believe that it is impossible
to make clear distinctions of “individual” and “society” because “Individuals can be just identified just through
the social groups to which they are part of” Heywood A page 108.
Socialists are also concern on what individuals
can accomplish and what they can be, which has led to the ideas of utopian
visions of society, where group of people can achieve emancipation and equality
as members of that community.
we said before, socialist believe in cooperation rather than competition
because unable people to create bonds of sympathy and trust which is what they
believe is a natural instinct, competition is what the capitalist system brings
in the society and what makes people selfish and self-interested.
Socialism argues that human beings can
be inspire to do their best not just through materialistic rewards but also by
moral values that will help their community to grow and creates in them a sense
of responsibility towards others. Welfare supports for the most vulnerable
individuals in society is what the socialists seek in order to guarantee to all
a fair and equal treatment.
is without questions the defining goal for Socialism, regarding it as a fundamental
value to promote equality of outcome in a society which is what makes socialists
different compare other political ideologies like Conservatism or Liberalism.
As the book “Political Ideologies: an
introduction” by Andrew Heywood says, there are three arguments in favor of it
which are social equality stands for fairness, builds cooperation and holds “that need-satisfaction in the basis for
human fulfilment and self-realization”(Heywood A. page 112).
Social equality stands for fairness
means that socialists believe that the inequality between people is not created
by the nature but by the society itself, where people receive unequal
treatments. That does not mean that they
believe that all people are the same, people have different skills and
competences but Socialists agree that they must be treated in the same way
without any distinctions.
Equality builds cooperation, meaning
that if people have the same outcome in society they will be more incline to
work together to reach their common goals in the community to have the same
advantages rather than competing against each other.
Without equality socialists argue that in
the society there would be conflicts between will lead society to a conflict between
different social classes like it did happen in the French Revolution
(1789-1799) and in Russia in 1917, where people fought against the privileges
that the few had.
individuals in a community have basic needs, like food and so on, making them
fundamental, meaning for socialists that those are essential for guarantee freedom
and equality to the community.
believe that the concepts of freedom and equality can coexist, which is
different from what other political ideologies beliefs, like liberalism.
Social class indicates groups of people
who do share similar ideas due to their similar social and economic status.
Socialists believe that throughout
history people were more incline to associate themselves with others who had
their common interest, meaning that social classes can cause and bring changes
in society and are a key factor in human history.
Also social class has been define more
specifically as the will of the working class, which will lead socialism to
success because they are the only class who can and will implement it.
Different ideas in the Socialism thought
see classes has something that should be eliminate by society (like Karl Marx
said) or that they will be dramatically reduced.
The origin of the inequality in a
society comes from the idea that few individuals own majority of the wealth and
that’s the reason why socialists condemn the idea of “private property”.
This idea is something that makes
Socialism completely different from Conservatism and Liberalism because both
believe that private property is an inalienable right.
They condemn the idea of it because the
wealth produced by the society should not be owned by private individuals but
instead should be owned by the community, also possessing private properties or
wealth makes people materialist and selfish, forcing them to accept that the
only way to achieve happiness is through wealth and materialistic goods.
As it has been said before, private
property creates differences between individuals in the community creating
conflicts between them.
Karl Marx believed in a classless
society with the abolition of private property but he did not specify how to
implement it, meaning that throughout history people have tried to implement
it, like Lenin did after the Russian Revolution in 1917, where he did it
through the naturalization of industries, without any distinctions, meaning a
direct control of the state over the national economy.
In the last decades instead in the
Western World after the Second World War, certain governments (Labor British
government in 1946-1952) chose to nationalize just certain industries (coal, electricity etc.) leaving
certain industries in the hands of the private but having a great influence
over the national economy anyway.
As this essay shows, Socialism
is a difficult political ideology to define because it has so many
interpretations but one belief that all socialists agree is that capitalism
causes oppression for the lower class.
In history we have seen
examples where the lower class decided to
get the power back from the Elite who owned the majority of the wealth, as it did happen during the French Revolution in
1789 and also in Russia in 1917.