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To what extent has socialism been defined by its opposition to capitalism?

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Wednesday 17th October 2007 Past Question: June 2004 To what extent has socialism been defined by its opposition to capitalism? [60 marks] Initially the question posed could be answered by defining socialist, as it is derived from the Latin term 'sociare,' meaning to combine or to share. This indicates, being as capitalism is about private ownership that infact the two contrast. Socialism had its basis in the 19th century and arose as a reaction against economic conditions created in Europe, by the growth in economic capitalism. It came to represent the impoverish workers who suffered due to early industrialization at the hands of what socialists saw to be the bourgeoisie, and those who profited disproportionately from the working class. Policies in the early 19th century meant that factory owners had the prerogative to determine wage levels and factory conditions, which were often poor to maximise profits. ...read more.


This practically removed the need for the type of revolution Marx preached of, and although capitalism remained, as it had done for the previous 300 years, it did so in a 'softer' form, with recognition for the need to treat workers reasonably. In some ways socialism abroad, did not develop as a response to capitalism. In countries such as Africa and Asia, socialism did not seek to remove a class structure or even capitalist system, but rather aid the anti-colonial struggle. Where in the UK there had been class exploitation, there was colonial oppression and this caused socialism to merge with nationalism. Economically, there is a broad spectrum of possibilities, but generally, the two extremes are seen as conservatism and socialism. Traditional conservatism would advocate a capitalist system which means an entirely free-market with no government intervention, whereas socialism preferences collectivization and planning, with its most extreme form being Communism. ...read more.


This is precisely the argument made against capitalism by socialists. Human beings are not utility maximisers; rather they are encouraged to act as such by the mechanism of the capitalist market, geared to the pursuit of profit. Therefore to conclude, it would be fair to assess that UK socialism is entirely a reaction to capitalism and they inequality they believe it causes. They would relate the class system and government failure directly to capitalism, and ultimately aim to abolish it. If capitalism did not exist there would have been no need for the creation of socialism in the 19th century. On the other hand this is not globally true as when socialism spread to colonial countries where capitalism did not exist, it developed as a movement for independence and emancipation. This means that although both strands are similar in that they sought 'freedom' in some fashion, not all socialism was directly related to capitalism. Equally in recent times (post cold war) 'socialist parties' have moved away from their traditional ideology. ...read more.

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