Socialism Core Perspectives

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Ideology

Socialists have traditionally seen ideology as a body of ideas that conceal that contradictions of class society, thereby promoting false conciousness and political passivity amongst the subordinate classes. Liberalism is the classic ruling-class ideology. Later Marxists adopted a neutral concept of ideology, regarding it as the distinctive ideas of any social class, including the working class 

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Freedom

Socialists have traditionally seen freedom in positive terms to refer to self-fulfilment achieved through either free creative labour or cooperative social interaction. Social Democrats have drawn close to modern liberals in treating freedom as the realisation of individual freedom. 

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Democracy

Socialists traditionally endorsed a form of radical demcracy based on popular participation and the desire to bring economic life under public control, dismissing liberal democracy as simply capitalist democracy. Nevertheless, modern social democrats are now firmly committed to liberal-democratic structures. 

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Human Nature

Socialists see humans as essentially social creatures, their capacities and behaviour being shaped more by nurture than by nature, and particularly by creative labour. Their propensity for cooperation, socialibilty and rationality means that the prospects for human development and personal growth are considerable 

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Equality

Socialists regard equality as a fundamental value and, in particular endorse social equality. Despite shifts within social democracy towards a liberl belief in equality of opportunity, social equality, whether in its relative (social democratic) or absolute (communist) sense, has been as essential to ensuring social cohesion and fraternity, establishing justice or equality, and enlarging freedom in a positive sense 

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Society

Socialists have traditionally understood society in terms of unequal class power, economic and property divisions being deeper and more genuine than any broader social bonds. Marxists believe that society is characterised by class struggle, and argue that the only stable and cohesive society is a classless one. 

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Economy

Socialists in the Marxist tradition have expressed a preference for common ownership and absolute social equality which in orthodox communism was expressed in state collectivisation and cerntal planning. Social Democrats support welfare or regulated capitalism believing that the market is a good servant but a bad master. 

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The Nation

Socialists tend to view the state as an artificial creation of humankind whose purpose is to disguise social injustice and prop up the establishment order. Political movements and allegiances should be therefore have an international and not a national character. 

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The State

Socialists have adopted contrasting views of the state. Marxists have stressed the link between the state and the class system, seeing it either as an instrument of class rule or as a means of lessening class tensions. Other socialists, have however, regard the state as an embodiment of the common good, and thus approve of interventionism in either its social-democratic or state-collectivist form. 

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Authority

Socialists are typically suspicious of authority, which is regarded as implicity oppressive and generally linked to the interests of the powerful and privileged. Socialist societies have nevertheless endorsed the authority of the collective body, however expressed, as a means of checking individualism and greed. 

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Gender

Socialists like liberals have rarely treated gender as a politically significant category. When gender divisions are significant it is usually they reflect and are sustained by deeper economic and class inequalities 

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Nature

Socialists like liberals have viewed and treated nature as merely a resource. However, a romantic or pastoral tradition within socialism has extolled the beauty, harmony and richness of nature, and looks to human fulfilment through a closeness to nature. 

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Religion

Socialists have usually portrayed religion in negative terms, as at best a diversion from the political struggle and at worst a form of ruling-class ideology (leading in some cases to state atheism). In emphasising love and compassion, religion may nevertheless provide socialism with an ethical base. 

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Culture

Socialists and particurly Marxists have viewed culture as part of the ideological and political "superstructure" that is conditioned by the economic "base." In this view, culture is a reflection of the interests of the ruling class, its role being primarily ideological. Culture thus helps to reconcile subordinate classes to their oppression with the capitalist system. 

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History

Socialists are committed to a progressive view of history which places heavy emphasis on the scope for social and personal development. Marxists believe that class conflict is the motor of history and that a classless, communist society is history's determinant end-point. 

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