Socialism as Problem and Ideal Socialism and Social Classes

Socialism as Problem and Ideal Socialism and Social Classes

Our concern is not to undertake a theoretical analysis of socialism in the abstract but rather to understand what socialism should be for us, at this time, in our Western civilization. Hence I raise the question: Is socialism primarily the expression of clearly defined interests of a specific social class? Or is it the manifestation of a desire for justice and liberty, assuming different forms throughout history but seeking through this diversity of forms a constant moral ideal?

Socialism and Social Classes

I should like to review the fundamental ideas of Marx, which may he condensed in the following statements:
1) History is motored by the class struggle.
2) Class structure is dependent on the organization of the ownership of the means of production.
3) Political power is essentially a reflection of productive power.
4) The working class continuously increases its numbers, little by little absorbing the old middle classes as these are destroyed by technological progress.
5) Furthermore, the pauperization of the masses and social inequality are continuously increasing, so that the struggle between the capitalist class and the proletariat becomes increasingly bitter and leads inevitably to revolution.

According to this theory, the achievement of socialism seems to be a development which, without appealing to justice, results simply from the inexorable laws of history. The workers will move toward socialism because they can’t help doing so; in defending their immediate interests, they will gradually become aware of the necessity for the revolution. This will be achieved by their vanguard, who, during a transitional period, will set up a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

These Marxist formulations, I would contend, no longer conform to the realities of advanced industrial societies. The fact is that we must take account of a growing process of social differentiation which characterizes our society and of its inevitable psychological and political consequences.

Social differentiation is manifested in three ways: the survival of the precapitalist classes; the breakup of the management class; and the division of the working class into a complex of autonomous groups.


Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

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