I wanted to state my opinion on what socialism is from a different viewpoint, but one that I feel is more accurate.
First I want to discuss capitalism. The most well know writer on the subject is Adam Smith, though he wasn't the first. One thing he his contemporaries and predecessors had in common is they were writing their observation of how markets functioned in practice, particularly in the UK, as compared to other nations and other times. They described how the forces of supply and demand could optimally set prices and output without a central oversight. None of this economic theory was written by Smith or his predecessors prior to real world observations of its functioning.
Marx, Engels, and other socialist and communist writers also wrote their observation of how market were functioning in practice. The difference is they offered a critique of capitalism, particularly focusing on the exploitation of the working class by business owners. This is the crux of what socialism and communism really are, a critique of capitalism. Socialist and communist writers predict socialism and communism would replace capitalism, but few offered a detailed framework of how such a society would look (other than not having their perceived flaws of capitalism). It is probably impossible for a human being to envision something so complex without first observing it.
The belief that socialism/communism is Utopian, I think, comes from the fact that any effort to label a nation as socialist or communist (USSR, China, Cuba, Sweden, Norway, etc.), is rejected by theorist that those nations are not true representations and pervert the term and its ideals. This leads to the sense that real socialism/communism never has existed and never could. It is the perceived impossibility, and not the belief that such a society if it existed would be perfect, that leads to the belief that it is a Utopian ideal.
In conclusion, capitalism is an economic theory that describes the idealized functioning of most modern economies. Socialism and capitalism are critiques of the functioning of modern economies, and not a fully realized alternate framework.Last edited by catofellow - on 09 February 2018
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