the origins of socialism

  • socialism is an ideology that grew out of the Enlightenment
  • socialism and liberalism have much in common
  • take an optimistic view of human nature
  • exalt reason over faith and superstition
  • are progressive- believe in the possibility of reform and are always ready to challenge the status quo
  • share a desire to liberate human beings from oppression
  • believe in foundational equality
  • reject the traditional state
  • reject anarchism
  • one of liberalism's core features was support for private property
  • as early as the 17th century, there were those who were unsure about whether the principles of the enlightenment could be reconciled to private ownership
  • during the english civil war one radical group of anti-monarchists, the levellers, argued that God had given the land to all mankind, yet some had exercised greed so as to acquire that land for themselves
  • such ideas were developed by a small number of radical theorists during the 18th century
  • rousseau, discourse on the origin of inequality, 1755- many crimes, war and murders and many horrors and misfortunes arose from the concept of private ownership
  • babeuf, 1789 French Revolution- led a conspiracy of the equals demanding the abolition of private property
  • it was during the early 19th century that the term socialism was first applied
  • utopian socialists
  • fourier, owen
  • offered a radical response to the emerging problems of capitalism and industry
  • fourier- advocated independent communities based on communal ownership and production, involving the equal distribution of resources and a culture marked by tolerance and permissiveness
  • owen- set up model cooperative communities in Scotland and America, designed to promote shared ownership, shared responsibility and altruism
  • it was only during the 19th century that socialist ideas began to be taken seriously
  • liberalism offered an inadequate response to the profound changes wrought by the industrial revolution, was in denial about the effects of urban life and blinkered to the fact that in the new industrial areas there was little scope for individual autonomy and individual freedom
  • the early socialists argued for a new approach that would make enlightenment principles more achieved in an industrialised society

the core ideas of socialism

human nature

  • upbeat, optimistic view of human nature
  • progressive ideology
  • liberals and socialists differ as to why they are optimistic
  • individuals are naturally cooperative, generous and altruistic
  • human beings seek solidarity, fraternity and comradeship
  • donne- no man is an island
  • mankind's true nature has been diluted by time and circumstance
  • socialists are optimistic about how human nature could be
  • human nature is malleable
  • human nature can be adjusted ensuring that men and women fulfil their true, fraternal potential while contributing to a more cooperative community


  • any understanding of human nature requires a clear understanding of society
  • focuses on an individual's social environment- the individual's society
  • individuals are the product of the society into which they were born
  • society is an independent construct formed by impersonal forces and shaping the individuals inside
  • marx and engels- these forces are primarily economic; the means of production have a crucial impact…


No comments have yet been made