What Is Socialism?

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population: its existence for the few is due solely to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us for intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

- Marx & Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

Podcast of the Day

Anyone who lived through the 20th century will have a complex relationship with Karl Marx; some will see socialism as the glorious road not traveled and others will see him as the folly we defeated. Those who came to political consciousness in the 21st century, though, will have virtually no notion of him at all, he’s a relic, a demon from the past, and socialism is simply an epithet used during political debate.

Robert Paul Wolff, emeritus professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the author of twenty-one books on the history of modern philosophy, social and political philosophy, the philosophy of education, economics, and Afro-American Studies. His is one of philosophy’s most powerful voices articulating alternatives to capitalism including reconsiderations of socialism and anarchism.

Listen to the Philosophy in Public Life episode: Why Not Socialism?

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Short Article of the Day

You and I and a whole bunch of other people go on a camping trip. There is no hierarchy among us; our common aim is that each of us should have a good time, doing, so far as possible, the things that he or she likes best (some of those things we do together, others we do separately). We have facilities with which to carry out our enterprise: we have, for example, pots and pans, oil, coffee, fishing rods, canoes, a soccer ball, decks of cards, and so forth. And, as is usual on camping trips, we avail ourselves of those facilities collectively: even if they are privately owned things, they are under collective control for the duration of the trip, and we have shared understandings about who is going to use them when, and under what circumstances, and why. Somebody fishes, somebody else prepares the food, and another person cooks it. People who hate cooking but enjoy washing up may do all the washing up, and so on. There are plenty of differences, but our mutual understandings, and the spirit of the enterprise, ensure that there are no inequalities to which anyone could mount a principled objection....

Continue reading G. A. Cohen's article: The socialist's guide to camping

Further Reading

While socialist ideas may retrospectively be identified in many earlier forms of protest and rebellion against economic injustice and political oppression, socialism both as a relatively coherent theoretical doctrine and as an organized political movement had its origins in early nineteenth-century Europe, especially in Britain, France and Germany. It was, above all, a critical response to early industrial capitalism, to an unregulated market economy in which the means of production were privately owned and propertyless workers were forced to sell their labour power to capitalists for often meagre wages. The evils of this system seemed manifest to its socialist critics. Not only was the relationship between workers and capitalists inherently exploitative, and the commodification of labour an affront to human dignity, but it generated widespread poverty and recurrent unemployment, massive and unjust inequalities of wealth and economic power, degrading and soul-destroying work, and an increasingly atomized and individualistic society...

Continue reading the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Socialism by John O'Neill

Related Topics

If you’re interested in socialism, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Capitalism | Democracy | Equality | Freedom | Ideology | Justice | Libertarianism | Marxism | Political Philosophy | Power | Revolution | Sociology

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