An economic and social theory that seeks to maximize wealth and opportunity for all people through public ownership and control of industries and social services.
The general goal of socialism is to maximize wealth and opportunity, or to minimize human suffering, through public control of industry and social services. Socialism is an alternative to capitalism, where the means and profits of production are privately held. Socialism became a strong international movement in the early nineteenth century as the Industrial Revolution brought great changes to production methods and capacities and led to a decline in working conditions. Socialist writers and agitators in the United States helped fuel the labor movement but were often branded as radicals and jailed under a variety of laws that punished attempts to overthrow the government. Although government programs such as SOCIAL SECURITY and WELFARE incorporate some socialist tenets, socialism has never posed a serious challenge to capitalism in the United States.
One of the early forms of socialism was the communitarian movement, popularized by the brothers George and Frederick Evans, who came to New York from England in 1820. Communitarianism, which was based on the ideals of the French theorists JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU and François-Noël Babeuf, involved the pursuit of utopian living in...
(The entire section is 2544 words.)
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Socialism is a much used and abused term, which spans the political spectrum from the Right (the National Socialists of Hitler's Germany) to the Left (Stalin's communists in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). It has also described a great variety of regimes that have acquired and used the term for their own purposes, stretching from the poor African socialist states and Arab and Asian military dictatorships, to the wealthy social democracies of Western Europe and Australia and New Zealand.
Generally, we may take the term to describe those doctrines which seek to increase the power of society and the state to determine political, social, and economic processes, as against traditional mechanisms and institutions favored by conservatives, and individuals and the market as advocated by liberals. In common usage, the dividing line between socialism and communism is not always clear or sharp, but may be taken to be between those socialists who subscribe to the basic doctrines of Karl Marx, and those socialists who do not....
(The entire section is 14594 words.)