While the concept of socialism is as old as civilization itself, its many variations make it difficult to define. However, socialism, like democracy as we understand it, is essentially a modern concept. It arose first as a critique of rampant commercialization and then as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution which radically changed human societies and lives. This book provides a detailed and critical account of the dominant schools and theorists of socialism. Common to all strands of socialism is a commitment to equality, human solidarity, non-exploitative relationships and socialized humanity. Beyond these commonalities, socialists differ, as is clearly brought out by the authors of this book. They discuss all the major schools of socialism–Marxism, Anarchism, Guild Socialism, Syndicalism, Fabianism and Social Democracy–with special emphasis on important theoreticians like Saint Simon, Marx and Engels, Lassalle, Bernstein, Luxemburg, Cole and Gramsci. The authors describe contemporary developments and analyze the varied controversies within socialism, such as the tensions between egalitarianism and efficiency, the role of the market and the importance of planning, and reforms vs. revolution. In the light of feminist interpretations, they critically assess the view of socialists in espousing and furthering the cause of women. Most importantly, the authors explain the recent collapse of communism and the disarray in which democratic socialism finds itself, and provide pointers to the future of the socialist discourse. Though socialism as an alternative to capitalism appears to have failed, its importance both as a critique and as a humanizing tendency in the form of social democracy continues to be an integral part of the modern political and social process. This lucid and comprehensive book will be of considerable interest to those in the fields of social and political theory, political science, history, economics, sociology and philosophy. It will also serve as text for students of sociology and political science.
A History of Socialist Thought: From the Precursors to the Present
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