What is meant by Socialism

What is meant by Socialism - What is meant by...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
What is meant by “Socialism”? Socialism has been interpreted in many different ways but its impact on the 20 th century and on intersecting ideologies has been considerable. Essentially, socialism involved a reaction against industrial capitalism. While conservatism concerned a defence of the status quo , or a return to the recent past, and liberalism ‘provided a justification and support for an ongoing industrial transformation’ 1 , socialism developed as a revolutionary ideology requiring a fundamental transformation of existing society, including its underlying values. However, some experts have claimed that although in some ways socialism was the very antithesis of liberalism, it can also be said to have grown out of liberalism. Both shared the concept of post- Enlightenment rationalism, and optimism over progress, just as they both evolved out of the rise of science and industrialisation. Beyond this, it is difficult to generalise and it becomes necessary to look towards the origins of socialism to establish its meaning. The term socialism, derived from the Latin sociare meaning ‘to share’, in its modern sense, made its first appearance around 1830 although its roots can be traced back beyond this date. The roots of socialism are controversial and problematic, but some have pointed as far back as Plato (427-347 BC) as one of its sources. In The Republic , Plato suggests that rulers should exist without families and without possessions as a means of avoiding corruption and this in essence is a feature of modern socialism, where the individual, his family and his wishes are subservient to the needs and success of the state. However, Plato goes on to show his support for a society that incorporates hierarchy, which is a distinctly ‘un-socialist’ idea. Tony Benn, the former Labour MP, claims that the first socialist was none other than Jesus Christ and cites as his reasons behind his belief the preaching of Jesus that all men are equal in the eyes of God. The New Testament tells us that "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” 2 . In general terms, Socialism strives for a classless society and equality for all, and as such, Benn reads the origins of socialist ideas into Christ’s declaration that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” 3 . Another source quoted by many as an origin of socialism has been utopianism. Andrew Heywood, states that “socialism in general…has a marked disposition towards utopianism, reflecting a belief in the human potential for sociable, co-operative and gregarious behaviour. Socialist utopias…are strongly egalitarian and typically characterised by collective property
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course PPE PPE taught by Professor None during the Summer '08 term at Oxford University.

Page1 / 4

What is meant by Socialism - What is meant by...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online