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  • Created on: 11-01-13 20:32

Types of socialism

Primitive socialism 
Forms that existed before onset of capitalism in the late 18th century. Best known of these utopias was by Thomas More - imagined island where there's no money or private property. Everyone receives goods according to needs.

Utopian socialism
Known as ‘utopian’ for a number of reasons. Lacked scientific rigour, ideas were seen as impractical/eccentric and ideas were based on optimistic view of human nature. All had desire to roll back state and return to simpler ways. Charles Fourier = wanted small, self-supporting communities based on primitive forms of labour rather than mass production. Robert Owen = accepted mass production was here to stay but understood that workers could be exploited so wanted to care for them. William Morris = communities of craft workers and designers who would share equally the proceeds of their labour. Looked back to a previous age and despised the brutality of industrialisation. All 3 had a common desire to hold back the progress of capitalism and industrialisation - unrealistic so was their undoing. Those that succeded accepted economic progress was a fact and adapted.

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Types of socialism

Marx and Engels - among 1st socialists to recognise importance of class conflict in critique of capitalism. Saw working class as only revolutionary class because of exploitation. Sought to move socialism away from utopian roots. Didn’t just see socialism as the answer to evils of capitalism; inevitable consequence of growing crisis of capitalism. Socialism = natural development, not an ideology.

Made 2 further contributions to socialism - 1st, were revolutionaries and rejected any notion that socialism could be brought about peacefully and/or democratically. Capitalism would have to be smashed by the working class. 2nd, they understood that industrialisation and mass production were here to stay.

Revolutionary socialism
e.g. Marxism. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, there were revolutionary socialists movements not based on Marx’s writings. Most successful revolutionaries = inspired by Marxism. Castro set up centralised socialist state in 1959 that still endures.

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Types of socialism

Fabianism and evolutionary socialism
Fabians were opposed to revolution - socialism would be through a long-term gradual process. Also developed the idea of inevitability of gradualism. This doctrine encompassed two ideas: 1st was that socialism would be the inevitable outcome of the development of capitalism. As capitalist enterprises began to dominate economy, would become necessary for state to bring under control to ensure they operated in public interest.

The 2nd the belief that the transition to socialism would be gradual. Working class wouldn't be ready to administer socialist state, but would require the leadership. When working classes had become fully educated they's be capable. Would be established through gradual process.

Bernstein argued capitalism wasn’t going to collapse of its own accord and nor was revolution the way to get rid of it. Socialists shouldn’t rely on evolution by an exploited working class, and should adopt tactics including:
● Setting up political parties that would seek representation in parliaments.
● Working with trade unions to improve wages and working conditions.
● Pursuing welfare and social justice through democratic means.
● Advocating state control of major industries.

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Types of socialism

Syndicalists advocated the revolutionary activity by groups of workers, directed at capitalist enterprises. Their objective was that workers would eventually take over their own industries and run them for their common benefit. The bourgeois state would then collapse as capitalism that supported it fell.

Syndicalists were notorious for violence, especially Sorel, who believed that the working class formed a heroic class and by taking decisive action, the working class would defeat capitalism and create bonds of cooperation and equality. Trade unions = ideal structure for this form of socialism - were potentially internally democratic, self-governing, and gave  members equal status.

Democratic socialism and British Labourism
Labour formed at beginning of 20th century. Technically product of trade union movement, more complex influences (Fabianism, utopianism, liberalism). Known as ‘democratic socialism’. Has particular character because of varied origins and influence by movements based on class conflict. Recognises importance of class differences but must govern in national interests.

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Types of socialism

1945-1979, Labour based its socialism on the following principles:
● Total defence of the parliamentary system of government.
● The pursuit of equal rights and equality of opportunity and welfare system.
● The provision of a welfare state and range of public services.
● The defence of powerful trade unions and worker’s rights.
● State control of large strategic interests to prevent capitalist working against public interest - ‘nationalisation’.

The Third Way
Term coined by Giddens. Refers to New Labour policies after 1992 that steered a path between socialism and neo-liberalism, so becoming the Third Way to social justice within a free market, capitalist society. 
Effectively a response to post-Thatcher consensus that dominated Britain from mid-1980s. Labour reinvented itself and Clause IV, which stated socialist intentions, was amended and socialist old guard was marginalised.

Many key values/institutions of socialism disappeared under New Labour, but didn't move from roots completely. Examples of New Labour initiatives advancing cause of socialism are retention of welfare state, education as best way to widen opportunity, programmes in poverty reduction.

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Types of socialism

Revisionist socialism
Any moderate socialists movement that compromises with class analysis of society and with revolutionary road to socialism. Democratic socialism, social democracy and New Labour would be examples. Commonly used by Marxists to describe those who’ve distorted Marxist theory. Bernstein was perhaps the most notorious of Marxist revisionists.

End of the 19th century - some socialists came to believe that analysis of capitalism was defective. Clearest theoretical expression of this belief – Bernstein’s Evolutionary Socialism – undertook criticisms of Marx and first major attempt at Marxist revisionism. Rejected Marx’s method of analysis – historical materialism. Capitalism was flexible and stable.

Bernstein suggested capitalism was increasingly complex, shown through ownership of wealth widening from the introduction of joint stock companies instead of a single powerful industrialist. Capitalism = no longer system of class oppression, reformable by nationalisation of major industries, extension of legal protection and welfare benefits. Bernstein was confident it could be achieved democratically.

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Core values/concepts in socialism

Seen as central principle of socialism but not simple issue. Has created conflict Between socialists and other ideologies, and within the socialist movement itself.

The aspects of equality upon which vast majority of socialists agree: 1st we are all born with equal rights. Socialists share this belief with liberals. 2nd all socialists reject  idea society has any kind of natural order. Everyone has potential to take up any position in society. 3rd all socialists believe in equality of opportunity.

There is unity over these principles but when we look more deeply, fragmentation appears. Issue over which there is most conflict is the extent to which absolute equality. Principle is relatively simple – resources of a society should be distributed equally throughout the community. Whatever contribution is made, he or she is entitled to equal share of rewards. This presents number of problems. It eliminates conventional incentives upon which a which modern economy is said to rely, and doesn't acknowledge variety of contributions that each makes. Can even be seen as fundamentally unjust, though many socialists see it as expression of social justice.

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Core values/concepts in socialism

Equality cont...
Problem arises from 2 differing views of human nature. Some believe we're all born with equal potential. Others acknowledge inequality is inevitable, we have different abilities and potentialities - should be recognised by different rewards. 1 way to solve conflict is to distribute property equally so that each individual has the same opportunity to make what he or she can of that property. Not practical in modern industrial society. Further solution could be ‘equal access to welfare’. Accepts rewards will be unequal but asserts certain basic services and minimum quality of life should be available for.

Socialist egalitarianism characterised by belief in social equality or equality of outcome. 3 arguments advanced in favour of this: social equality upholds justice and socialists are reluctant to explain inequality of wealth in terms of innate differences. Social equality underpins community and cooperation – equal outcomes strengthens social solidarity and social inequality = conflict.

Marxists believe in absolute social equality, brought about by the abolition of private property and collectivisation of productive wealth. Social democrats believe in relative social equality through redistribution of wealth through welfare state and a system of progressive taxation.

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Core values/concepts in socialism

Humans are social beings. Natural relationship among them is cooperation, not competition. Competition = selfishness, cooperation = moral/economic sense.
 Individuals who work together rather than against each other develop bonds of sympathy. humans can be motivated morally, not merely by financial incentives.

Term meaning ‘brotherhood’ suggests members of working class have a common bond that is as strong as a family link (effectively brothers).

Common ownership
Traced origins of competition/inequality to private property. Contrasts with liberalism and conservatism. Criticise private property because: unjust (wealth produced collectively, should be owned by community), breeds acquisitiveness (morally corrupting, encourages materialism) and divisive.

Socialists propose abolition of private property to be replaced by common ownership of productive wealth. Marx envisaged abolition of private property and creation of a classless society to replace capitalism.

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Core values/concepts in socialism

Class conflict
Traditionally view social class as deepest of social divisions, but there are some divisions about the nature and importance of social class:

Marxists: class is linked to economic power, as defined by the individual’s relationship to the means of production. Class divisions characterised by irreconcilable conflict between the two classes = an inevitable revolution and overthrowing of capitalism through a proletariat revolution.

Social democrats define social class in terms of income and status - ‘white collar’ and ‘blue collar’. advance of socialism is associated with narrowing divisions between the middle and working class, brought about through economic and social intervention. They believe in class harmony rather than class war. A link between socialism and class politics has declined since the mid 20th century, as a consequence of class solidarity and shrinkage of traditional working class which has been reflected in the decline of traditional labour intensive industries.

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Core values/concepts in socialism

Social democracy
Took shape around mid 20th century and was most fully developed post-1945. It abandoned the goal of abolishing capitalism and sought to humanise it. Its major features are:

- It endorses liberal democratic principles and accepts political change can and should be brought about peacefully and constitutionally.

- Capitalism was accepted as the only reliable means of generating wealth

- Nevertheless, capitalism was viewed as morally defective and associated with structural inequality and poverty.

- Defects of capitalism can be rectified through state intervention.

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Key thinkers in socialism

Charles Fourier (French, 1772-1837)
Saw socialism as a means by which people could rekindle community spirit threatened by growth of capitalism. Understood socialism was about fellow feeling and social responsibility and saw industrialisation as the worst evil of capitalism, draining workers of creative capabilities and drove them into competition. Intensely optimistic view of the potentiality of human nature to create genuine, cooperative communities.

Robert Owen (Welsh, 1771-18-58)
Known as utopian but can be described at ethical or Christian socialist too. Didn’t share class conflict analysis with Marxists, nor did he advocate a state-sponsored system of common ownership. Owens' socialism was, like Fourier’s, of a humanist kind – based on compassion, altruism and social responsibility. 

Set up a cooperative organisation where workers could produce goods on a collective basis and share out the proceeds on the basis of need wchi could operate successfully alongside capitalism by removing exploitation of both workers and consumers that the system produces. 

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Key thinkers in socialism

Auguste Blanqui (French, 1805-51)
Saw society, like Marx, in terms of class conflict. Solution to exploitation of working class was to destroy capitalism and state that supported it and replace with a worker’s state. More revolutionary than Marx. In some ways, Blanqui was similar to Marx, but had no scientific theory of history and didn't attempt a thorough explanation of the true nature of capitalism.

Karl Marx (German, 1818-83)
1st scientific socialist, theories are derived from many sources. Understanding of nature of capitalism came largely from liberal economists, theories of history from philosophy of social progress and revolutionary fervour from figures such as Blanqui. Marx’s socialism = both scientific and idealistic. Although he developed theory of historical development, ideas were ultimately based on view of human nature. Work represents essence of human spirit; life force + gives life meaning. His theory of human development rested on this. Believed alienation was what would bring capitalism down. Robbing workers of own labour = sowing seeds of destruction. Gives rise to concept that socialist revolution is inevitable, making socialism not just an aspiration but logical outcome of fully developed capitalism.  

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Key thinkers in socialism

Marx cont..
Idea socialism was inevitable was shared by Fabians but Marx believed it would not be outcome of a gradual process, but of hammer blow struck by working class. Critics focus on his assertions about nature of humankind. Didn't allow for modification of capitalism, which allowed people to achieve self-development – even though they might continue to sell their labour in order to live.

Eduard Bernstein (German, 1850-1932)
Devised form of socialism which would become main opposition to classical Marxism - revisionism, worst kind of insult in the revolutionary socialist world. Became important exponents of ‘social democracy’. Rejected Marx’s assertions that class conflict increases leading to revolution and worker's state, Bernstein argued that socialist principles would be best advanced through democratic, parliamentary means. Rejected notion that inequality and exploitation would worsen under capitalism, and argued that within democratic framework the interests of the working class would receive fair hearing and capitalism would respond fairly. Role of socialists therefore should be to form democratic parties, seek election power and to implement reforms like welfare systems, trade union rights and equality of opportunity for all.  

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Key thinkers in socialism

Anthony Crosland (English, 1918-77)
Labour revisionist. Attacked view that most effective way of achieving socialist aims was through nationalisation of major elements of the economy. Argued that capitalism should be allowed to flourish as long as it created wealth effectively and didn't exploit workers. Rejected class-based analysis of society, arguing it was outdated in pluralist world. Saw socialism as a collection of values rather than a slavish attachment to a set of institutions.

Tony Benn (English, 1925-)
Principal messages of Christ = equality and brotherhood, condemning pursuit of wealth and inequalities. Benn - inequality is unethical, must be reduced.

Large-scale monopoly capitalism = preventing even distribution of wealth. Capitalism (in direct contradiction to Crosland) would never accept higher taxation as a means of redistributing income. Public ownership of all major industries (‘commanding heights’) was essential if economic equality was to be achieved. Advocated centralised state planning as way of running economy in interests of the whole community, not just the wealth few. Production and distribution should be state controlled, not free market.

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Issues in socialism

The role of revolution
Revolutionary socialists, such as Marx and Blanqui, insisted there could be no compromise and believed capitalism would defend itself so revolution would be violent and bloody. Rejected notion that socialism could be achieved through democratic means. View was based on assumption that state was agent of capitalism, though it gave the appearance of democracy and pluralism.

Marx admitted possibility that socialist state could be established democratically, but only in Britain where system was least class-dominated.

Those who believed that socialism could come about peacefully and gradually were known collectively as ‘evolutionary socialists’. To some extent, beliefs were based on assumption that numerical superiority of working class would vote socialism into power. Evolutionary socialists such as Fabians and the revisionists, led by Bernstein, represented principal opposition to revolutionary socialism. Role of socialists was to bide their time, educate all classes in socialists truths and to wait for the right moment to dismantle capitalism.

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Issues in socialism

The state

Marx (against) saw state as an class rule. The old bourgeois state had to be removed and replaced by a worker’s state (‘dictatorship of the proletariat’). The role of this socialist state was to dismantle the capitalist edifice, create a socialist society under a central state, effect re-education of people and to create classless society where state = unnecessary and could wither away.

Utopian socialists (Fourier: against, Owen: minimal) didn't see state as vehicle for socialism. Small-scale, cooperative communities = way forward in promoting socialist values. Fourier believed whole population could come to live in small communities, so the state could become irrelevant and unnecessary. Owen didn’t see the state as irrelevant but believed its role should be minimised and confined to security, defence, and organisation of exchange between communities. Utopian socialists underestimated the extent to which the state was entrenched in modern society and unrealistic in belief that small communities could provide all social/economic needs.

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Issues in socialism

The state cont..

State socialists (Saint-Simon and Blanqui: for) centralised state = achieves socialists ends. Saint-Simon proposed a state would govern in the interests of all. However, not to be a great economic institution that would control industry and commerce but a regulatory body, consisting of the ‘great and the good’ in society. Would control capitalism so create more equality. Blanqui said complete equality of outcome would be achieved. State wouldn’t be democratic in traditional sense, but run on behalf of working class. Idea of self-governing communities was utopian and social solidarity and economic equality could only be guaranteed if state became the sole vehicle of common ownership of means of production and distribution.

Fabians (for) faith in state’s ability to create socialism, but 2 important distinctions between them and state socialists. 1st, they were insistent that state should be fully democratic, and assumed people would vote for socialism. As long as people were educated in socialism, they'd be willing to vote for it. 2nd, Fabians saw local govt as vehicle for socialism. The attraction of socialism at local level lay in the fact that by bringing government close to people, it would be more democratically based.

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Issues in socialism

State cont..

Democratic socialists (for) convinced democrats, like Fabians. In general, believed state had a role and that private sector could coexist. There should be a welfare system and taxation to redistribute income. Democratic socialists argued that all major and strategic industries should be under state control so they served the community. By insisting on democratic political system, state control of these industries becomes popular control. Industries supplying consumer goods can be left to the free market. Trade unions and employment rights to help prevent exploitation of worker’s rights. Outside free market, state should help planning output of important goods/services, based on principle that economic development should be in interests of community and not left to random outcomes of market based systems.

Social democracy and New Labour (a regulated amount). Dramatic change in attitude to role of state. Control of virtually all industry has been placed in the private sector - privatisation. Now a consensus that individualism should flourish and excessive state power threatens it. Social democrats introduced the ‘regulatory state’ - doesn't control industry/commerce but insists on regulation to serve public interest.

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Socialism and liberalism

Both insist upon primary of equal rights and opportunity. For radical socialists like Marx, this can’t be upheld by capitalists. Socialist movement in general though has always seen the creation of this kind of equality as a goal. Fundamentally, liberals believe humans are naturally unequal, whereas socialists argue inequality is artificial and a product unjust society.

‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ Marx. 

‘From each according to what he chooses to do, to each according to what he makes for himself.’ Robert Nozick.

While liberals argue free society is where people are ‘free to be unequal’, socialists seeks to create conditions where greater equality can be achieved. Socialists= more optimistic every individual is capable of becoming equal, if they have equality of opportunity and society is justly organised.
Fundamental socialists still object to inequality, even when it results in greater general prosperity. Matter of principle. Radical liberals still argue that inequalities thrown up by a free society are all just.

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Socialism and liberalism

Liberals criticise socialism for curtailing liberty. If liberty is fundamental to human existence, attempts to pursue greater equality hurt human dignity.

In theory, therefore, individuals appear to have greater freedom under the rule of the bourgeoisie than before, in reality of course they are less free, because they are more subject to the power of things. – Marx.

By  ‘power of things’, Marx meant individuals were subject to economic forces beyond their control. Believed they were free because they could sell their labour but they couldn't decide not to sell their labour at all.

Attempts to create greater economic equality inevitably curtail freedom (freedom to spend income, damaged by taxation). Also danger that excessive equality lacks incentives, so progress would slow. Close to Rawls’ philosophy: distributive justice protects individual liberty, but accepts that economic liberty of some may reduce economic liberty of others. General liberty remains intact, but economic liberty becomes negotiable. Most liberals and moderate social democrats now accept main objective of a liberal society is fairness in terms of distribution of both goods and freedom.

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The dialectic and theory of history
Marx saw history as moving in a specific direction and shared Hegel’s view that the progress of history was characterised by regular processes. Marx’s theory of history is ‘dialectic materialism, based on economic determinism’.

Marx analysed every age in terms of its dominant economic relations. All other aspects of society are merely reflections of its economic realities. The nature of economic relations is determined by how the means of production are owned, how people are employed and their relationship is to the means of production. 
Under capitalism, the dominant economic relationship is between capitalists, who own all means of production, and proletariat (workers) who exchange labour for money wages and own none of the means of production.

Every age progresses in same fundamental manner so capitalism would go the way of all past ages, creating seeds of its own destruction – an exploited, revolutionary working class. This would usher in a new age and new dialectic conflict. Marx believed that the age that succeeded capitalism would signal victory of socialism and communism as communism wouldn't contain any destructive forces that characterised others.

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Marx's position on class:
Class structure of capitalism is determined by productive relations of system.

● The key relationship is that between bourgeoisie and proletariat.

● As exploitation grows, lead members of proletariat become class-conscious.

● Class polarisation occurs, increasing the size of the exploited proletariat.

● Social conflict intensifies as class consciousness grows.

● The proletariat overthrows capitalism and the rule of the bourgeoisie.

● Now an interim period (dictatorship of proletariat) in which socialism is built.

● Ultimately, classless society will emerge – end of dialectic process of history.

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The nature of capitalism
Saw capitalism as different from past systems and more exploitative. Reasons Marx gave for rapid growth and success of capitalism:

● System based upon individual self-interest, a powerful force which gave capitalism its drive. Based on free interaction of producers and workers, sellers and buyers. All these operated in their own interests so there was a natural drive to efficiency and growth.

● Based on the use of capital – machinery and technology giving industry productive potential. Capital could be improved and increased.

● Combined this capital with labour power in a unique way. It reduced labour to the same status as capital, dehumanised workers and drained human labour of its creativity. Labour became dependent on machines rather than the other way round.

● Extracted ‘surplus value’ from workers, so workers paid a fraction of value for their labour – no matter how productive the labour, worker only earns minimum wage. More efficient the enterprise = higher surplus value.

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Summary of Marx’s description of how capitalism would develop and collapse
1. Capitalism develops and becomes highly productive.

Surpluses generated are reinvested, making capitalism more productive.

The working class grows in size and class polarisation continues.

Capitalism begins to overproduce and economic slumps become regular.

Inequality, alienation and socialist consciousness grow among the working class.

Rivalry between capitalist countries intensifies, resulting in wars and imperial competition.

The class consciousness among the proletariat grows and becomes revolutionary, at which point the working class brings capitalism to an end.

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Most controversial element of Marx’s philosophy was prediction that capitalism would be brought down by a violent revolution and would occur in countries where capitalism was most advanced. Criticisms - 1, first Marxist revolution occured in Russia, not an advanced capitalist country. 2, revolutions didn't occur in advanced capitalist countries like Britain, Germany and France.

Marx observed that every age had contained the seeds of its own destruction, which grew, created conflict and destroyed the system that created them, and saw revolution as inevitable result of progress of capitalism. Because capitalism was most developed of all systems in history, it would produce the most exploited and revolutionary class in history.

The capitalist state was founded upon violence and it would defend itself with violence. Only in Britain might there be peaceful democratic transition because Britain had most genuinely democratic system so might allow for representation of the working class. Historical change created by actions of revolutionaries = voluntarism, idea that historical forces are outside control = determinists. 

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Was Marx a scientific or a utopian thinker?
Scientific - He relied almost totally upon empirical evidence. In other words, his ideas were developed from the experience of history.

Utopian - Marx claimed all previous versions of history had been corrupted by the ruling ideology of the age, but he claimed his explanation of history was purely scientific, so how can we know his version isn’t tainted by the same faults as previous analyses of history?

Scientific - He examined history from the point of material conditions, asserting that less concrete factors are secondary to economic forces. These conditions, he claims, can be studied scientifically.

Scientific - If Marx really did analyse history in an objective, empirical manner, his argument could be justified. If the oppressed class in the past did inevitably destroy the system that created it, it's a reasonable theory. 

Utopian - But Marx admitted that capitalism wasn't like any previous system (more dynamic and productive) so why should it conform to past? 

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Was Marx a scientific or a utopian thinker?
The main arguments of Marx and his critics can be reduced to a stark conflict.

Marx claimed that there are fixed historical laws that allow us to understand how capitalism will ultimately be transformed into socialism following its catastrophic destruction.

Against this is the view that historical laws such as this don’t exist, so the future course of capitalism can’t be predicted.

The most cynical of his critics suggest that Marx was a utopian socialist who constructed a complex, quasi-scientific theory to justify the apparently inevitable development of a communist society.

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Old Sir


A very useful survey of socialistic ideas and the people who proposed them. These cards could provide a good reference for students looking to deepen their understanding in preparation for discursive questions in A2 (synoptic) paper 2.

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