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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: July 2011

16 - Non-Marxian socialism 1815–1914

from III - Modern liberty and its critics


Introduction: ‘political’ and ‘anti-political’ socialism

The various strands of thought which would be termed ‘socialism’ by the early 1830s emerged from three main sources: the failure of the French Revolution to have solved the problem of poverty, particularly by securing an adequate food supply; its political degeneration into dictatorship; and the onset of industrialisation. After 1848 these problems would be widely recognised as having a characteristic ‘socialist’ solution that was broadly democratic, collectivist and anti-capitalist, and tended towards community of property and the rejection of ‘free markets’ as such. But the diversity of these responses also needs to be stressed at the outset: socialism possessed authoritarian and paternalist strands, and later in the century was sometimes combined with various forms of individualism and anarchism (in William Morris, for instance), and occasionally it proposed retaining elements of capitalism (for example in Fourierism, where rewards for investment, separate from labour, were encouraged). Moreover, the degree of centralisation appropriate to socialist ends, and whether the ideal society should be essentially communitarian, were also much disputed. For Saint-Simon and his followers, as for Marx, the nation state, if not indeed a confederation of affiliated states, was the appropriate locus, at least ad interim; for Owen and Fourier, the small community or phalanstère was to be preferred. Some writers thus decouple Saint-Simonism in particular from Owenism and Fourierism (e.g. Iggers 1972, p. xli). Hence, too, it is misleading to oppose ‘individualism’, or laissez-faire, to ‘socialism’, or intervention led by the ‘state’ as such (e.g. Ely 1883, p. 29). The degree to which a more just and egalitarian society could or should encourage luxury was also a divisive issue. So too was the means, revolutionary or evolutionary, by which such a society was to be achieved.

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