Assignment Brief Definition Of Socialism

1. Defining socialism

The term ‘socialism’ was first used by Owenites in Britain and by Saint-Simonians in France in the 1820s and 1830s, and soon became widely adopted to refer both to a body of ideas critical of capitalism and to the future society that would or should replace it. But disputes about the meaning of ‘socialism’ – itself sometimes contrasted with ‘communism’, at other times taken to include it as a subcategory (see Communism) – have been endemic to its history, even more so than with its two main ideological counterparts, liberalism and conservatism. An enormous variety of theoretical positions and political movements have been termed ‘socialist’, by proponents and critics alike. Particular versions may be indicated by some qualifying term – as in state socialism, market socialism, guild socialism, revolutionary socialism, scientific socialism, ethical socialism, even national socialism (fascism); but there is no agreed classification of types since the relevant basis for this is itself subject to dispute. For some, what is crucial is the political means through which the desired future is to be achieved – for example, revolution or reform; for others, the specific nature of socialist economic institutions – for example, state planning or decentralized producer democracy; and so on.

An especially significant issue is whether socialism is to be defined normatively or institutionally: in terms of a set of values or ideals which socialists aim to realize, and which provide the basis for their critique of capitalism; or of the specific character of the economic institutions of a socialist society. The latter option has the obvious disadvantage of leaving unmentioned just why this institutional form should be seen as preferable to capitalism, and what makes it a system worth fighting for. The former option, by leaving the institutional requirements for socialism entirely unspecified, makes it a purely empirical question whether, as many who are now termed ‘social democrats’ would claim, capitalism can be modified so as to realize socialist values: there would then be no logical contradiction in calling such a capitalist society ‘socialist’. But given the socialist tradition’s opposition to capitalism on the grounds that no such modification is possible, it seems preferable to regard this social democratic thesis, if true, as a refutation of socialism, rather than as consistent with it (see Social democracy).

So it seems best to include in the definition of socialism both normative and institutional elements. For the socialist, the economic institutions of capitalism embody certain features and/or generate certain consequences that are objectionable from the standpoint of certain values; and there are possible alternative forms of economic organization which would either fully realize those values, or at least be markedly preferable to capitalism when judged in these terms. This, of course, is little more than a definitional schema, and leaves room for many varieties of socialism with respect both to the specific values involved and the specific form which a socialist economy might take.

On the latter question, while socialists have typically argued for the replacement of private by social, public or common ownership of the means of production, they have differed about what exactly this should involve – ownership by the state, by functional associations or local communities, by the members of producer cooperatives, and so on – and indeed about whether it is ownership or control that is crucial. Likewise, different solutions to the problems of economic coordination and allocation have been proposed: centralized planning by the state, decentralized planning, or even a market system shorn of its distinctively capitalist property relations. These different proposals are themselves often related to different views as to precisely what it is about capitalism that is objectionable and/or causally responsible for its ills: whether all relations of market exchange are undesirable, or only those involving the sale and purchase of labour power; whether it is private ownership of the means of production that is chiefly responsible for unjust inequalities in the distribution of economic goods, or the operation of a competitive market; and so on.

On the former question, of the specific character of socialist values, perhaps the main source of variation is the attitude taken towards political liberalism (see Liberalism). Some socialists have seen their task as engaging in an immanent critique of liberal democracy, broadly endorsing its declared values of freedom and equality but trying to show that their distinctively liberal interpretation is unduly narrow and restrictive: for example, by arguing for the extension of individual rights to include social and economic ones, and of democracy to include control over economic decisions. From this standpoint, liberal democracy is to be transcended – in the Hegelian sense of ‘going beyond yet preserving’ – rather than totally rejected; and the ideal of community is understood to involve harmonious relations between individuals who respect and enjoy one another’s freedom. For others, by contrast, political liberalism – including its emphasis on the rule of law – is no more than an ideological facade of capitalism, so that, for example, its conception of legally enforceable individual rights has no place in a socialist society; and the value of community is understood in a more holistic manner.

With these broad points about the definition and variations of socialism in mind, we can proceed to examine some of the main arguments for socialism and the critical responses to these, focusing in turn on debates about economic efficiency, human wellbeing, democracy and power, and distributive justice. While the case for socialism typically begins by attributing various ills to capitalism, it depends also on being able to show that there is some alternative system in which these would be absent or greatly reduced. Correspondingly, critics of socialism may deny either that the supposed ills are properly regarded as such, or that they are attributable to capitalism intrinsically rather than to contingent features of particular capitalist societies; and/or they may argue that the proposed socialist alternative fails to overcome these ills, or that it does so only at the cost of producing further ones of its own.


Socialism, as an alternative to capitalism, has the widest appeal. A Swedish king once remarked to his minister, “If one is not a socialist up to the age (If twenty-five, it has that he has no heart; but if he continues to be a (socialist after the age of
25, he has no head”social seems to have caught the imagination of youth all over the world For a long time the definition of realism a given by the Webbs was accepted by a majority of the socialists. They  definition runs thus: “A Socialised industry is one in which the national instruments of production arc  by public authority or voluntary  association and operated not with view to profiting by sale to other people but for the direct service of those whom the authority or voluntary ,  as association represents”. This definition docs not correspond to the present notion of socialism. because it docs not imply any idea of planning. The definition given by Dickinson seems to be better. According to him, socialism is an economic organisation of society in which the material 1 of production arc owned by the whole community and operated by the organs unrepresentative  of, and responsible’ to. the community according to general plan. all members of the community being entitled to benefits from the results of such socialist planned production on the basis of equal rights.’ According to another definition which brings out the implications of socialistic more clearly. “Socialism refers to that movement which aims at vesting in society as a whole. rather than in individuals. ownership and management of all nature-made and man-made producers’ goods used in large-scale production to the end that an increased national income may be more equally distributed without marenally destroying the individual’s economic motivation or his freedom of occupational and consumption choices.’? In Morrison’s words, “the important essentials of socialism are that all the great industries and the land should be publicly or collectively owned, and that they should be conducted (in conformity with a national economic plan) for the common good instead of private profit.

From the definitions given above, we are in a position to understand the b sic idea/Ideas underlying socialism. In simple words; socialism implies social  ownership of means of production, But besides social owner hip of instruments of production, socialism implies several other things. It implies equality of incomes and equality of opportunity for all. Socialism does not mean that all productive resources should be owned by the State, only the major instruments of production should be under the State control so that economy is run for social benefit rather than private profit. Socialism wants to change the old capitalistic structure of society and replace it by a new economic _ order based on equality and social justice. Instead of special prerogatives and vested interests, socialism lay

2. Loucks and Weldon Hoot-Comparativ’e Economic
Systems. 1948.
3. Readings in Economics. edited by P.A.
Samuelson. Second Edition. p. 430.
4. The Quarterly Review. July 1924, p. 2.

emphasis on work and ability and equal opportunities  for all regardless of caste, class and inherited privileges.

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