Tag Archives: Capitalism

The Different Types Of Socialism

To most of us, socialism conjures up many images. These range from modern American politicians, to the Social Democracy nations of the world, to communist countries such as modern-day North Korea, and then to the most famous socialist in history…Karl Marx. Undoubtedly, with so many images created by the word socialism, it’s hard to know who owns the definition of the term.

Although Marxian socialism as practiced in communist countries is probably the most famous example, Marx is hardly the last word. Throughout history, the concept of socialism has had many adherents dating back to ancient Greece and the philosopher Plato.

Over the past 200 years there have been many socialist thinkers that not only differed in impact from Marx, they also differed in their ideas about free-markets and democracy. When one looks at leaders such as John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, and Clement Attlee, one discovers thinkers who looked at socialism as something to be used in combination with both capitalism and democracy. These leaders were influential in the evolution of Social Democracy. At times, some advocates for Social Democracy call themselves Democratic Socialists.

What makes the practice and rhetoric of Marxian socialism different is its emphasis that capitalism is exploitive. In addition, the often tyrannical way that communism has been practiced is another way it’s differed from other forms of socialism. Although its been proven since the fall of the Soviet Union that Marxian communism is weak economically, there are many who still adhere to the Marxian premise that capitalism creates exploitation.

Therefore, although the economic premise of Marxism is problematic, the influence of Marx historically and on contemporary culture looms large. Although many people may not describe themselves as Marxists, they may agree with Marx’s theory that capitalist culture is exploitive. As a result, on many issues that address social change, a common way to challenge tradition is to claim that a certain practice is exploitive. And yes, exploitation does exist in many areas and needs to be addressed. However, it’s fair to say that the levels of exploitation some claim exist, are not always apparent to all.  

Obviously, socialism and capitalism can co-exist. As many know, the products and ideas of a capitalist system enhance the creative way we lead our lives. On a daily basis, we express our freedom and make decisions about how to live based on our interactions with a free-market. Therefore, in light of these positive aspects, its obvious capitalism’s not as exploitive as some claim. Where aspects of socialism have a role in modern life is in ensuring a social safety net, regulating marketplaces to ensure equality of opportunity, and upholding common environmental standards. This ability to rely on free-market capitalism to provide most of the goods and services of society, while also ensuring a moderate level of government services for infrastructure, security, human services and defense, is the hallmark of the most successful and least radical form of socialism…Social Democracy.

In modern America there’s now a strong push for what some envision as Social Democracy. Interestingly though, the rhetoric these advocates use is sometimes similar to the rhetoric Marxian socialists use. This is shown when they infer that both capitalists and capitalism are exploitive and greedy. Hopefully, when people nowadays advocate for more Social Democracy, they’ll realize that demonizing capitalism often turns many practical people off. In reality, the ideal of Social Democracy is often best achieved by first acknowledging the useful role that capitalism plays in modern life.

 

 

 

 

 

The Endless Search For Utopia

One of the most enduring concepts through the centuries has been the search for utopia. Few ideas ignite mankind’s passion and intellect in the same way as the grand search for the ideal master plan for civil society. Interestingly, if one were to ask different people what utopia would be, there would often be areas of agreement. 

In essence, many people view utopia as a kind of society where strife would be at a minimum, human needs would be met, and there would be a productive place and sense of meaning for each individual. However, although this sounds both ideal and possible on one level, it’s in the implementation of utopian plans that problems can arise. 

Some social theorists have complained that attempts to implement utopian theories lead to high levels of anxiety due to the fact utopian ideals are often difficult to achieve. Therefore, the inability to achieve these ideals can lead to a constant state of unfulfilled longing and frustration for many. In addition, since some utopian theories place the needs of the group over the individual, there have been instances of persecution of individuals justified in the name of a utopian ideal. The famous injustices created over the years in Communist societies are a strong example of cruelties often committed in the search for social perfection.

Although creation of an absolutely perfect utopia has proven difficult to achieve, it has to be noted that a glance at history reveals that aspects of utopian theory have been implemented over the years. To many, a kind of pragmatic utopia that rings eternal is the type of society characterized by both Representative Democracy and regulated marketplaces and capitalism.

Although pure capitalism is difficult to achieve and can lead to strong social imbalances, a regulated market economy that provides rules that act as a check on power, has proven durable for centuries. Likewise, Representative Democracy of the type America helped usher in over 200 years ago, has become both popular and efficient worldwide.

Although America’s not been perfect, its form of government has endured precisely because it recognizes the simple fact that mankind’s not really capable of the kind of perfection some other forms of utopia advocate. In recognizing the basic imperfection of man, and setting up checks on both individuals and institutions gathering too much power, democracies such as ours provide a safety valve that keeps society in balance.

And yes…America, as well as other democracies have at times treated certain groups unfairly. A quick glance at American history shows the injustices suffered by Native Americans, as well as the slavery and Jim Crow laws that adversely affected the lives of African-Americans. However, if there was ever a society capable of acknowledging and rectifying historical wrongs, it’s the type of Representative Democracy that America has. Those who advocate moving away from both democracy and regulated marketplaces in America due to past injustices, risk getting rid of one of the most durable and pragmatically utopian societies in human history.