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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

socialism: a note « Previous | |Next »
September 26, 2009

Socialism is such a dirty word these days. Few would admit to being socialist in spite of the failure of free market economics around the global financial crisis and global heating, the subsequent government bailout of the big banks and the rejection of the policies of neo-liberalism by many western governments.

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Socialism is seen as belonging to the class centred era of industrial capitalism and it is equated with totalitarianism, worship of the state, terror, and the denial of human freedom. There is a sense of the redundancy of traditional socialist ideas about the imposition of socialism through the state, central planning and bureaucratic collective provision, whether done in the names of Keynes and Beveridge or Marx and Lenin.

The right-wing neo-liberal response to the increasingly intrusive role of the state into peoples' lives in civil society is to abandon ideas of the common good and collectivism and to roll back the state to the most minimal forms possible. In its place neo-liberals put the individual and the pursuit of private self-interest as the governing principles of economic and political organization.

Rather than rejuvenating any kind of market socialism, the global economic crisis is showing the strength of varieties of capitalism that resisted the turn to neo-liberalism--more statist forms of governance--rather than some form of market socialism in which firms are owned and controlled by the government but then sell their products to consumers in competitive markets.

The most fruitful strand rethinking of socialism is the democratization of socialism through new forms of decentralization, citizenship and participation which go beyond conventional liberal democracy.The citizenship socialists are more concerned with democratizing the state and decentralizing state powers into civil society than they are with separating off the state from civil society and minimizing its role.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:10 AM | | Comments (3)
Comments

Comments

Here is an amazing factoid.

"Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better."
From here:
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2009/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism

OK there is a lot of room for discussion about the meaning of the word but I would imagine, given the notoriety with which the word has been coupled in the US, that the number of 20% preferring socialism to capitalism is surprising to most observers.
Considering that media portrays both the word and the concept so negatively, not only in the US but here also, that the common experience and ethics of such a significant minority can transcend that is simply amazing.

In a representative democracy the political participation of the individual is, in the very nature of the system, restricted. The core of representative democracy is that authority is given to a party to rule, and to the people to remove it. What is not involved is rule by the people themselves. The structures of representative democracy are not conducive to widespread active citizenship.

"Socialism ...is equated with totalitarianism, worship of the state, terror, and the denial of human freedom."

Really????

I wonder EXACTLY which bunch of twits come to that conclusion, and why.

I'd say that it's not the rich and powerful... because I assume they've got enough brains to spot the bullshit. No doubt they benefit from such tripe (and encourage it), but I suspect they don't ACTUALLY believe it.

The irony is that the misinformation about the evils of socialism is most readily accepted by the hoi polloi.