Opinions on Socialism

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This article is about the economic system and political philosophy. For other uses, see Socialism (disambiguation).

Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them. They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.

A socialist economy is based on the principle of production for use, to directly satisfy economic demand and human needs, and objects are valued by their use-value, as opposed to the principle of production for profit and accumulation of capital. In the traditional conception of a socialist economy, coordination, accounting and valuation are performed in kind (using physical quantities), by a common physical magnitude, or by a direct measure of labour-time in place of financial calculation. For distributing output, two alternative principles have been proposed: to each according to his contribution and from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The advisability, feasibility and exact way of allocating and valuing resources are the subjects of the socialist calculation debate.

The socialist political movement includes a diverse array of political philosophies. Core dichotomies include reformism versus revolutionary socialism, and state socialism versus libertarian socialism. State socialism encompasses calls for the nationalisation of monopolized or oligopolized corporations or other institutions, universal goal setting and planning, and legal public ownership of the means of production as a strategy for implementing socialism; libertarian socialism encompasses calls for decentralised means of direct democracy such as libertarian municipalism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, and workers' councils coming from a general anti-authoritarian stance. While all tendencies of socialism consider themselves democratic, the term "democratic socialism" is often used to highlight its advocates' high value for democratic processes and political systems and usually to draw contrast to other socialist tendencies they may perceive to be undemocratic. Some socialists have adopted the causes of other social movements, such as environmentalism, feminism and liberalism.

Modern socialism originated from an 18th-century intellectual and working-class political movement that criticised the effects of industrialisation and private property on society. The revival of republicanism in the American Revolution of 1776 and the revival of egalitarianism in the French Revolution of 1789 converged into the rise of socialism as a distinct political movement by the turn of the century. Initially, "socialism" referred to general concern for the social problems of capitalism regardless of the solutions to those problems. However, by the late 19th century, after waves of revolutionary movements, "socialism" had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership. During this time, German philosopher Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels published works criticising the utopian aspects of contemporary socialist trends, and applied a materialist understanding of socialism as a phase of development which will come about through social revolution instigated by escalating and conflicting class relationships within capitalism. Within this surge of opposition to capitalism appeared other more or less complimentary tendencies such as anarchism, communism, and social-democracy as well as the confluence of socialism with anti-imperialist and anti-racist struggles around the world. Socialism became the most influential worldwide movement and political-economic world view of the 20th century. Today, socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence in all continents, leading national governments in many countries.

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