Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1

Chapter 10



Is socialism dead? This provocative point was argued by many conservatives,
and the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), in
particular, after the collapse of the Communist Party states.

The difficulty in deciding whether socialism is dead is that socialism, like
feminism, is bedevilled by the problem of variety. Socialism comes in many
different shapes and forms. The Iraq War saw the British government, which
would consider itself socialist, waging armed struggle along with the USA
against a regime which would also call itself socialist. Do the diverse kinds of
socialism have anything in common?

Can socialism be defined? Is it an impossible dream? Do more ‘realistic’ forms
of socialism sacrifice their very socialism when they become more pragmatic?
These are all questions we shall try to answer.

Chapter map

In this chapter we will explore:

  • The problem of variety and a working
    definition of socialism.

  • The problem of Utopia as one to which
    socialism is peculiarly prone. Three
    nineteenth-century socialists, regarded
    by Marxists as utopian, but who
    consider their own work scientific and

  • Marxism as one of the variants of
    socialism: Marxism is a theory that
    tends to authoritarianism in practice.

    • The distinct character of democratic
      socialism or social democracy and the
      impact made upon British labour by
      the ‘revisionist’ theory of Eduard

    • The link between class and agency,
      freedom and determinism.

    • The argument that socialists do not
      have to choose between being utopian
      or being realistic.

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