Political Beliefs Term Paper

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Socialism is a highly charged issue in any capitalistic culture as a lack of general understanding of the term and the fragmentation of its application over the years has led many to equate it with both despotism and social degeneration through lack of personal control over the means of production. To many capitalist thinkers socialism holds back the progress of any one individual and therefore any culture that accepts it through the seeming lack of upward mobility available to those who practice socialism in a broad way. Socialism, generally defines is:

The general term for the political and economic theory that advocates a system of collective or government ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods. Because of the collective nature of socialism, it is to be contrasted to the doctrine of the sanctity of private property that characterizes capitalism. Where capitalism stresses competition and profit, socialism calls for cooperation and social service. ("Socialism ")

Because of socialisms place as the seeming antithesis of capitalism the concept is discredited and abused by "democratic" capitalistic society as a false method for improvement of any culture or economy. (Gray )

In addition to this most subscribers to socialist ideals can endlessly name issues and problems inherent within a capitalistic economic culture. Just a few of those are, the stark and destructive economic distance between the rich and poor, which seems to only be getting worse, the lack of equitable social concern, demonstrated through ideals that falsely charge those who are not successful with the responsibility for their own demise because the opportunity is available in name to everyone, and many more. The reality is that both camps have valid arguments for their belief or disbelief as in capitalistic culture the unsuccessful are ignored and serve as the backs on which the successful climb to even greater success, and in a socialist society the means of control of resources is so centralized that it can often lead to abuses that reduce social welfare for all.

In a broader sense, the term socialism is often used loosely to describe economic theories ranging from those that hold that only certain public utilities and natural resources should be owned by the state to those holding that the state should assume responsibility for all economic planning and direction. In the past 150 years there have been innumerable differing socialist programs. For this reason socialism as a doctrine is ill defined, although its main purpose, the establishment of cooperation in place of competition remains fixed. ("Socialism ")

What most people fail to understand is that socialism has many faces and the economic/political face of it are in constant flux. Though capitalism seems rather straight forward there are countless examples within what are thought to be purely capitalistic societies that embrace concepts of socialism, examples such as city owned utilities, politically controlled education systems, social welfare programs and the like. In general even a basic sense of social responsibility for the poor, disadvantaged and needy is an expression of socialist political theory. Would any "democratic" nation attempt to deny these as basic facts with which their culture makes decisions? (MacDonald)

Personally the concepts of socialism are well understood and play a big part in how I view the world, but only because I believe I have a greater than normal understanding of the concepts of socialism and the ways in which capitalism has injured so many. This view is of coarse biased by personal experience as a member of the economically disadvantaged class. So, it goes without saying that those who hold a higher position in society do not often feel such a bias. Coming from the upper middle class and becoming downwardly mobile despite education and opportunity is not an uncommon situation in today's economy yet it is often the only way in which an individual in a capitalist society can truly see the futility of opportunity that arises often within capitalistic societies. Yet, sadly there is countless qualitative and quantitative evidence that the lower on the socioeconomic ladder you are the lower you're level of sociopolitical control over either the means of production or the welfare of the disadvantaged. (MacDonald)

The theoretical basis for socialism though relatively new, is a rich expression of the diverse manner in which people attain and embrace a worldview, both collectively and individually. Mainly it is an expression of the diasterously negative outcomes of uncontrolled capitalistic enterprise at the turn of the 19th century.

Socialism arose in the late 18th and early 19th cent[uries] as a reaction to the economic and social changes associated with the Industrial Revolution . While rapid wealth came to the factory owners, the workers became increasingly impoverished. As this capitalist industrial system spread, reactions in the form of socialist thought increased proportionately. ("Socialism ")

Theorists include: Francois Noel Babeuf, who coined the first group of theories associated with class warfare during the French Revolution. ("Socialism ") The now famous Carl Marx, who is often thought ofa s the father of modern socialism, later picks up these theories as a revolutionist, radical philosopher of what he calls now calls "communism."

Socialist writers who followed Babeuf, however, were more moderate. Known as "utopian socialists," they included the comte de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen . Saint-Simon proposed that production and distribution be carried out by the state. The leaders of society would be industrialists who would found a national community based upon cooperation and who would eliminate the poverty of the lowest classes. Fourier and Owen, though differing in many respects, both believed that social organization should be based on small local collective communities rather than the large centralist state of Saint-Simon. All these men agreed, however, that there should be cooperation rather than competition, and they implicitly rejected class struggle. ("Socialism ")

The idea of socialism based upon small local communities was of coarse in reaction to the reality of the centralization of power being at the very root of the many problems being fought against in the revolution periods of modern western history. There were many social experiments created in the 19th century in response to these ideas, giving birth to the phrase communism, which is a reflection on the word commune, a rather innocuous institution of collective welfare now given the dark and sinister label by the capitalist world. ("Socialism ")

In the 1840s the term communism came into use to denote loosely a militant leftist form of socialism; it was associated with the writings of Etienne Cabet and his theories of common ownership. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels later used it to describe the movement that advocated class struggle and revolution to establish a society of cooperation. In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote the famous Communist Manifesto, in which they set forth the principles of what Marx called "scientific socialism," arguing the historical inevitability of revolutionary conflict between capital and labor. In all of his works Marx attacked the socialists as theoretical utopian dreamers who disregarded the necessity of revolutionary struggle to implement their doctrines. In the atmosphere of disillusionment and bitterness that increasingly pervaded European socialism, Marxism later became the theoretical basis for most socialist thought. But the failure of the revolutions of 1848 caused a decline in socialist action in the following two decades, and it was not until the late 1860s that socialism once more emerged as a powerful social force. ("Socialism ")

The diversity of the movement becomes evident even from the beginning, additionally the nationalistic and secular nature of the communist/socialist movement gave many people cause to believe the experiments to be unworthy of social acceptance, as they were not globally implemental and more importantly they were ungodly and starkly in contrast tot the Protestant work ethic philosophy which has pervaded western thought and drove countless creations of modern subjugation, not limited to but plainly manifest in colonialism. Responses to this arose in the form of Christian Socialism, "led in England by Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley; they advocated the establishment of cooperative workshops based on Christian principles" ("Socialism ")

Then the reality of the general failure of revolutionary tactics of Marxist philosophy drove a more moderate ideal that required national evolution into situations of change that promoted the worker and redistributed wealth. "Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of the first workers' party in Germany (1863), promoted the idea of achieving socialism through state action in individual nations, as opposed to the Marxian emphasis on international revolution." ("Socialism ") It can be argued that just such a social thought drove reform in the United States and other countries after the "Great Depression" as publics works projects surfaced to reemploy the disenfranchised working class, after the economy failed. The evolutionary socialist ideals permeate the social and political reconstruction of nearly every nation after disaster, as much as the capitalistic cultures would hope not to admit.

In Great Britain for instance the parliamentary system was greatly influenced by the ideals of socialism, and the Labour Party influence on…[continue]

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