Thursday, October 28, 2004

Definitions, Part 1: Socialism

A friend recently asked my opinion, as someone living outside the US, about why so many foreigners hate the US. I promise to post on this during the weekend, when I have time to actually sit and write.

Meanwhile, the following are some useful definitions that I will refer to in giving my opinions on this topic. Just reading these may be immediately helpful in understanding the world view of anti-American sentiment, and will give you an idea of the path of my opinions.

All of these definitions come from Wikipedia, to which I provide links to the appropriate entries below. I have modified some of them, however, to take into account information in other entries in the Wikipedia and elsewhere, and for stylistic reasons. Because the Wikipedia changes, please understand that, for the sake of consistency, the following (and NOT the current Wikipedia definitions which the links lead to) are the definitions I will use on this blog.


Communism: Communism in its original meaning is a social theory and political movement for the direct and communal control of society towards the common benefits of all members, and up until the middle of the 19th century was synonomous with socialism and anarchism. In the mid-19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed a theory that all history can be explained in terms of class struggle. According to this theory, there are several stages to history. During the capitalist stage, the dominant bourgeoisie (capitalists who control the means of production) exploit and oppress the proletariat (industrial workers). Marx claimed to have resolved that it was only a matter of time before the working classes of the world, realizing their common goals, would unite to overthrow the capitalists and redistribute the wealth. He felt the establishment of communism would be the inevitable outcome of a historical process. When capitalism kept thriving, the Marxists split into two camps: Leninists and Democratic Socialists. (Wikipedia)

Leninism: According to Lenin, Marx underestimated the power of capitalist imperialism and therefore a revolutionary seizure of the political power on behalf of the proletariat was needed to overthrow the capitalist system, so as to advance humanity towards communism. (Wikipedia)

Democratic Socialism: One branch of communism where it has been concluded that a socialist society could be created without revolution and could be brought about through the process of reforming existing state institutions. This ideology formed the basis on which a number of political parties were founded, including the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the British Labour Party. (Wikipedia)

Socialism: While this covers a very broad range of views, they have in common a belief that feudal and capitalist societies are run for the benefit of a small economic elite and that society should be run for the common good. "Socialist" ideologies tend to emphasize economic cooperation over economic competition; virtually all envision some sort of economic planning (many, but by no means all, favor central planning). All advocate placing at least some of the means of production -- and at least some of the distribution of goods and services -- into collective or cooperative ownership. (Wikipedia.)

Anarchy: One common use of the English word anarchy is "a state of lawlessness or political disorder", otherwise known as anomie. However, in anarchist philosophies, anarchy means an "anarchist society", that is, a society where individuals are free from coercion. Anarchist philosophies differ greatly, but there are certain principles shared by all anarchists, most notably the basic principle of non-hierarchy (in an anarchist society there cannot be any kind of social hierarchy) and its derivatives, such as the principle of equal decision-making power (all people must have equal decision-making power in an anarchist society; if some have more power than others, then a hierarchy is formed). (Wikipedia)

Lenin's definition of Imperialism: "The highest stage of capitalism," specifically the era in which monopoly finance capital becomes dominant, forcing the empires to fight among themselves increasingly for control over resources and markets all over the world. This control may take the form of geopolitical machinations and military adventures, but financial manouvres can also give a powerful country influence over the internal affairs of a weaker one. Globalisation and the practices of the World Bank, for example, are frequently accused of serving imperialist interests. (Wikipedia)

UPDATE: Just a quick note: When reading my definitions posts, my Oxymoronism: Definitions and the Individual post should be kept in mind.

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