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  A body of writings, ideas and beliefs on social justice and equality which, in its most generally understood form, envisages a social system based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution. In communist writings, it is considered as a necessary precondition to achieving full communism, from which it is also generally distinguished by an emphasis on the difference between common and state ownership. In many other socialist writings, however, socialism is regarded as a system in which only a significant proportion of the means of production is owned and run by the state.

As a response to nineteenth-century industrial capitalism, nineteenth-century socialism encompassed a number of different socialist movements, the most important being utopian socialism, Marxian socialism and democratic socialism. All three shared the following characteristics:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } each contained an economic and social-humanist critique of the social and territorial injustices of the capitalism of its time; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } each had a comprehensive and integrated programme based on a better organized and more just society; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } each was to change the human geography of state activity.But there were also vital differences between them.

Utopian socialists saw the self-contained small community as the ideal form for future society, based on the principle of cooperation (cf. anarchism). Land was to come under public ownership, while the daily economic and social life of the community was to be part of a well-planned and human distributive system in which basic needs would be met by the collective. Some utopians expressed in their ideas a yearning for the vanished past of rural life, while few had much faith in an impersonal urban society based on materialism and competition. Many of these ideas found expression in the communities founded by the early nineteenth-century social reformer Robert Owen, and in the later garden city movement (see also kibbutz).

Marxian socialism, however, saw such ideas as unrealizable and unscientific because they were not rooted in the historical realities of class struggle and the structural necessities of capitalist production. According to Marx, social reforms cannot change the nature of society and the systems of property relations, for nothing short of an urban proletarian-led revolution could eradicate social injustices and the obstacles to the further development of productive forces (see Marxian economics). It was only on the basis of collective ownership of the means of production, and through central planning, that town-country and other class-based inequalities would be resolved.

In contrast, democratic socialists contended that revolution was unnecessary, and that socialism could be achieved through the ballot box. For them the bourgeois state of turn-of-the-century Great Britain and Germany did aid economic progress and had initiated social-welfare programmes for workers (see welfare state). On this basis, it was believed that democratic socialism could build and prosper through essentially reformist measures. Many of today\'s democratic socialists would argue that the experiences of post-1945 parliamentary industrial societies show that their path was right and Marx was wrong, for government could reform capitalism and was not simply the agent of a capitalist ruling class — as instrumental theories of the state contend: nor are all capitalist states the same, and politics simply an instrument of the prevailing mode of production.

State socialism is a term popularized in the West to describe societies whose dominant values are those of Marxism-Leninism, with a character of society based on the determining influence of class forces operating through the laws of historical and dialectical materialism (cf. historical materialism). The dominant institution is the Communist Party, the territorial power of which is assured through state control of the means of production (cf. territoriality). Central planning is also an important hallmark of state socialism. To varying degrees, such societies set themselves the task of ensuring that differences between town and country, state and collective forms of property, types of labour and ethnoregional distinctions would be overcome, if not eradicated. However, the inability of modern-day state socialism to deliver living standards comparable to those offered by advanced capitalist societies, and to secure social justice and liberties for its peoples, led to popular revolutions between 1989 and 1991 throughout eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (cf. post-Soviet states), a process also precipitated, at least initially, by the end of the Cold War. Rejection of state socialism has led to an acceptance of the market as the alternative for ensuring economic growth and the struggle for reincorporation into the capitalist world economy. (GES)

Suggested Reading Callinicos, A. 1991: The revenge of history: Marxism and the East European revolutions. Oxford: Polity Press. Giddens, A. 1998: The Third Way. Oxford: Polity Press. Kornai, J. 1990: Socialist transformation and privatization: shifting from a socialist system. East European Politics and Societies 4 Spring: 255-304. Pierson, C. 1995: Socialism after communism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Smith, G.E. 1989: Planned development in the socialist world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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