Socialism as the Promising Population's Philosophy

2747 (6 pages)
Download for Free
Important: This sample is for inspiration and reference only

Today, socialism is one of the most prevalent alternatives to capitalism. So it's only natural that, as the poster child for capitalism, the United States has a very tricky relationship with socialism. The history of socialism within the U.S. is one of ineffective execution within the confines of capitalism. Yet, socialism still retains popularity, why? This is due in large to the concepts of social and economic equality that are the basis for socialist economic and political theory and therefore resonates with the American foundational ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Socialism has failed many times and, for the most part, the cause of failure can be traced back to the improper application of socialist policy within the confines of a capitalist economy or a totalitarian government. Socialism is theorized to function only when the proletariat has full control over resources. We should give socialism the proper consideration it deserves, even if we only use socialism as a lens through which to look critically at capitalism. With socialism currently on the upswing in popularity in the United States, especially with the emergence of socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders, now is an extremely influential time when it's important to ask the question: Can socialism be successfully implemented in 21st century America? History of Socialism in the U.S. The history of socialism in the U.S. is long and complicated. When posed with the question 'Why is there no socialism in the United States?', researcher Alexander Dunphy analyzed the history of the question and how the answer has changed over time to reflect the needs of each generation. The question's origins, however, can be traced back to Karl Marx. 'Marx celebrated the history of the United States' Working Men's parties of the 1820s and 1830s as some of the first labor-oriented political organizations in the world' (Dunphy, 2014).

The existence of these unions was a sure sign of the advanced level of the working class in the United States. Discussions of the theoretical importance of the United States spread through Marxist circles. Karl Kautsky, an Austrian Marxist who served as the intellectual authority on Marxism for the Social Democratic Party of Germany, claimed that 'America shows us our future' (Renton, 2004). Karl Kautsky went on to elaborate on this statement by saying that 'In America, capitalism is making its greatest progress; it rules there more absolutely and with more ruthlessness than anywhere else. The class struggles are sharpening there to the highest possible degree' (Kautsky, 1902). Socialism, and by default communism, are seen as the natural progression of a society founded on capitalism. The assumption is that the failings of capitalism will create tension within the working class and will inevitably culminate in the overthrowing of capitalism and the adoption of socialism. The U.S. was viewed to be on this track toward socialism with the rise of such socialist concepts as the workers' unions. Socialism has seen a major increase in popularity since the turn of the century, due to the most recent wave of activists fighting for the social justices of the underprivileged and underrepresented.

Researcher Benjamin Shepard published a journal titled 'Occupy Against Inequality' where he analyzes the ways through which inequalities in wealth are reflected in our health. It explores indicators of inequality including social determinants of health among various populations, examples of excess death in low-income communities, high preterm births among African American mothers, and overall high rates of infant mortality across the board (Shepard, 2012). Shepard highlights the need for movements that will break down these inequalities. He goes on to specifically cite a 2011 movement that was created to do something about these problems of inequality. In response to a series of statistics that came out pointing to an 18-year high in poverty levels, a group of idealistic youth descended on Wall Street. They were unsatisfied with Obama's one-sided approach to serving the needs of bankers, and with the lack of a national policy to address increasingly severe social and economic inequalities, they turned to the street to pursue their own solutions. They establishing a space where they would rally, cook, create art, and participate in an open-ended experiment in democracy (Shepard, 2012). This social climate of dissatisfaction is exactly the type of scenario that Marx and Kautsky believed would incite a passion in the working class to look for alternatives to capitalism; alternatives like socialism. Why Socialism in the U.S.?In the U.S., socialism is already seen by most as a prevalent far-left extension of liberalism. In a paper by Cecilia Tohăneanu titled 'Complex Equality', Tohăneanu analyzes Michael Walzer, an American political theorist and public intellectual, and his pluralist approach to justice before contrasting it with several standard egalitarian liberalist accounts. Walzer's notion of 'complex equality' is discussed in order to see whether or not, by defending the sort of socialism attached to it, he can still be situated within traditional liberal thought, or so-called 'socialism of a liberal kind' (Tohăneanu, 2013).

This means moving away from basic liberal principles and becoming willing to accept that there's a desire to evolve those liberal principles in the name of social justice as well as a desire to see real and measurable change within the U.S. that is more effective than modern liberal policy. When looking at the intersecting beliefs/ideologies between socialists and liberals, and comparing them, we can better draw conclusions about the needs of the majority within the U.S. and how we could best go about achieving equality. Ed Rooksby wrote about the relationship between socialism and American liberalism in a peer-reviewed journal where he 'discusses socialisms reputation as being the radicalization and transcendence of liberalism. Socialism draws on the normative principles that drove the bourgeois revolutions and which liberal society professes to embody and then demands that these ideals be more fully realized' (Rooksby, 2012). Rooksby analyzes American liberalism's core commitments to equality and liberty, and how they exist in a state of tension with their supposed institutionalization in the structures of liberal society.

The universalism of these principles generates a dynamic of struggle that tends to expand beyond the limits of liberal capitalism. Furthermore, ideals of liberty and equality are more suitably grounded in a view of humans as social beings rather than in liberalism's radical emphasis on individualism. Rooksby comes to the conclusion that a socialist society embodying an ethics of cooperative, reciprocal, self-realization would realize liberty and equality much more fully than is possible in a liberal society. Socialism actually shares many of the core values that the United States was built on. In his book Why Not Socialism?, Marxist and political philosopher Gerald Cohen goes over his account of the principles animating the socialist ideal. Cohen argues that socialism is based on two principles, one of radical equality and one of opportunity and community (Cohen, 2009). In a peer-reviewed journal titled 'Cohen on Socialism, Equality, and Community', Pablo Gilabert analyzes Cohen's point of view and breaks it down, identifying problems with it and suggesting ways to overcome them. It challenges Cohen's claim that, although the principle of radical equality of opportunity is a principle of justice, the principle of community is a wider moral requirement (Gilabert, 2012).

Gilabert argues that to fully account for the role and weight of the considerations of the community within a socialist ideal, and to justify the limitations on liberty that they would impose in implementation, then we have reason to see some of them as too strict of demands for justice. Gilabert emphasizes, however, that the needs of the community correlate with the need for equality of economic opportunity, as well as to the protection of personal and political liberty, all of which are the defining ideals that the United States was founded on.Why Hasn't Socialism Worked Before?Although there are no instances of the full implementation of a socialist government or economic system, there have been many unsuccessful instances of the implementation of socialist policy and socialist institutions, and therefore there are many lessons to be learned from all the failed attempts at socialism. One such example of this can be read about in the book Gender, Equality, and Difference During and After State Socialism, where author Rebecca Kay examines gender as a socially and culturally constructed phenomenon that is influential in and influenced by state-led policies and structures, as well as social practices and relations, and which shapes the experiences and lives of both women and men (Kay, 2007).

No time to compare samples?
Hire a Writer

✓Full confidentiality ✓No hidden charges ✓No plagiarism

Focusing on the former Soviet Bloc, the book explores the pivotal nature of the demise of the communist regimes, in relation both to experiences of gender and to their study. Kay discusses specific opportunities given under the Soviet Bloc's socialist policy, such as the state revived insistence on women's freedom in political discourse. However, such discourse, alongside a patriarchal renaissance, and a sudden prioritization of motherhood, seemed to revalidate 'innate' differences between men and women once again (Kosmala, 2008). The social reform, therefore, failed to achieve the goal of equality that was its intention, and this is primarily due to the fact that those people who were in charge of creating and implementing this policy were the same breed of white, male, elites that formulate the policies in most capitalist or democratic countries. When looking back at the opinions on gender inequality at the time of the Cold War, 'the differences between ‘communist' states and their ‘liberal' capitalist rivals were frequently nowhere near as great in practice as ideological rhetoric on both sides of the ‘iron curtain' implied' (Kay, 2007). Socialism is the people's movement, founded by the majority and for the majority, the working class, and therefore any socialist policy that is implemented should be reflective of the wants and needs of the people, not what the elites assume are the wants and needs of the people. Not only that but in order for socialism to function, the general public has to be receptive to change and equality, it has to be something they want, something they've decided, in order for it to be properly implemented and accepted.

The failure of socialism is often due to the lack of commitment to the radical change necessary in order for socialist policy to be successful. The failed implementation of socialist policy can, for the most part, be attributed to the fact that the socialist policy is being enacted within the confines of a capitalist economy, or under the rule of a totalitarian government. To further explain, in a dissertation titled 'Unions, Socialism and the Working Class: A Marxist Analysis of German Trade Union History', author Jil Rudolf argues that unions' inherent nature and changing socio-economic environment leads to their failure, since the unions' work remains entrenched within the boundaries established by the capitalist system and their emergence in the framework of the national state and economy led to their complete deterioration in today's globalized economy (Rudolf, 2014). Rudolf also discusses the concentration of wealth, the record proportions of social inequality, and how these disparities are reflected in the impoverishment of the working class and the enrichment of an extremely small percentage of the world's population. She also seeks to explain that unions were incapable of resolving this inequality due to their limitations within capitalism, and thus why they failed to improve working class living conditions.

Socialism has Failed a Lot, Why Should We Give it Another Chance?

Some people believe that the failure to implement socialist policy as well as the failure to consider socialism as a viable alternative to capitalism, is indicative of a larger problem. In her article titled 'Death Camps and Designer Dresses: The Liberal Agenda and the Appeal to 'Real Existing Socialism'', author Lorna Finlayson suggests that contemporary analytic political philosophy exhibits a 'dominant paradigm', the main features of which are a commitment to liberal capitalism and a preference for the designing of 'just institutions' (Finlayson, 2011). In other words, because the dominant political philosophy is centered around capitalism, any alternatives such as socialism have to be excluded from prolonged consideration. The most popular way of supporting this 'dominant paradigm' is by referencing the perceived failure of instances of 'real existing socialism' (Finlayson, 2011). Finlayson points out how this argumentative strategy is unconvincing, seeing as there are no instances of ‘real existing socialism', and yet the claimed failure of these instances is often used to shut down debates about any and all policy that finds its foundations in socialist ideologies. Furthermore, the deployment of such an argumentative strategy tells a worrying story about the practice of political philosophy and its silencing of opposing theories.

Socialism is an extremely important philosophy that can not be ignored. Even if you don't buy into socialism as an economic or political movement, it is a necessary alternative to our current economic and political system and at the very least socialism creates a frame through which we can look at capitalism critically, decide where we need to improve, and then make those changes.Socialism in the U.S. Today!Socialism has seen a huge spark in popularity as recently as the 2016 election. In a PBS article titled 'Is socialism in the United States having a moment?', author Jessica Yarvin analyzes how there was already a basis for socialism in the United States, with many unconnected groups having their own interpretation of socialism and socialist ideals as it pertained to their specific needs within their community (Yarvin, 2017). That desire for socialism was brought to the attention of the media most prominently through Bernie Sanders presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Bernie's campaign promises were extremely popular among youths and the working class, and this was indicative of the large problems of inequality and unrest in the United States.

Many citizens want to challenge government institutions and search outside of capitalism for a solution. In a peer-reviewed article titled 'Socialism in the United States: Hidden in Plain Sight', author Robert Shaffer analyzes how Bernie Sanders gained his popularity. Sanders attracted some of the largest crowds of the 2016 presidential campaign, attracting crowds of 11,000 in Phoenix, 25,000 in Los Angeles, and 28,000 in Portland OR (Shaffer, 2016). Sanders earned an extremely large following amongst the younger generation, who sees the current system in place in the United States as working against them and working in favor of the wealthy 1%. Shaffer's article sheds light on the already prevalent and influential desire for socialist policy and reform within the United States, which we can see best through the popular campaign promises made by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election; promises like universal healthcare, free college education, and higher taxing of the wealthy. There are several current theories about what it would take for today's United States to adopt socialism.

One such theory comes from Gar Alperovitz in his article titled 'Practically Socialism' where he explains his insights on the implementation of public ownership to gain a sustainable economy, as well as the significance of democratic ownership on the wealth of the nation, and the suggestion made by radical historian William Appleman Williams to socialists, telling them to focus on regions, not the national system (Alperovitz, 2016). This article provides a look at the construction of a practical and politically viable form of socialism in the U.S. in the 21st century. Alperovitz analyzes the challenges within modern politics that create a need to develop a set of ideas that will challenge the dominant ideologies and, hopefully, move the country in a fundamentally new direction. Alperovitz provides specific instances through which the U.S. has been influenced already by socialist ideologies, and postulates that the interest in socialism in modern America stems from the working classes' desire to demand more from their government and their country and to question societal norms.

Socialism is only expected to grow in popularity within the United States as issues of inequality come to a tipping point.ConclusionSocialism is an extremely complicated concept that's relevance and public opinion change drastically depending on the current needs and desires of the proletariat. In order to answer my research question in a more comprehensive way, I would have liked to do more research on the similarities between socialism and communism and how their relationship to each other can skew public opinion negatively due to the negative connotations that U.S. citizens associated with communism. I would have also liked to delve a little more into social constructs and the way that they affect the how we perceive capitalism and socialism respectively, taking into account that the society we've been raised in has made us biased in favor of capitalism.

You can receive your plagiarism free paper on any topic in 3 hours!

*minimum deadline

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below

Copy to Clipboard
Socialism as the Promising Population’s Philosophy. (2020, September 28). WritingBros. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from
“Socialism as the Promising Population’s Philosophy.” WritingBros, 28 Sept. 2020,
Socialism as the Promising Population’s Philosophy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jun. 2024].
Socialism as the Promising Population’s Philosophy [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Sept 28 [cited 2024 Jun 25]. Available from:
Copy to Clipboard

Need writing help?

You can always rely on us no matter what type of paper you need

Order My Paper

*No hidden charges