AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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An economic and social theory that seeks to maximize wealth and opportunity for all people through public ownership and control of industries and social services.

The general goal of socialism is to maximize wealth and opportunity, or to minimize human suffering, through public control of industry and social services. Socialism is an alternative to capitalism, where the means and profits of production are privately held. Socialism became a strong international movement in the early nineteenth century as the Industrial Revolution brought great changes to production methods and capacities and led to a decline in working conditions. Socialist writers and agitators in the United States helped fuel the labor movement but were often branded as radicals and jailed under a variety of laws that punished attempts to overthrow the government. Although government programs such as SOCIAL SECURITY and WELFARE incorporate some socialist tenets, socialism has never posed a serious challenge to capitalism in the United States.

One of the early forms of socialism was the communitarian movement, popularized by the brothers George and Frederick Evans, who came to New York from England in 1820. Communitarianism, which was based on the ideals of the French theorists JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU and François-Noël Babeuf, involved the pursuit of utopian living in small cooperative communities. Cooperative living gained greater popularity under the utopian socialists, such as the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen and the French philosopher Charles Fourier. Owen's followers established a self-sufficient utopian community in New Harmony, Indiana, in 1825 and Fourier's followers did the same in the 1830s and 1840s on the east coast. Both of these efforts failed, however.

In 1848, the German philosophers KARL MARX and Friedrich Engels introduced scientific socialism with their extremely influential work, the Communist Manifesto. Scientific socialism became the definitive ideology of a second, more powerful phase of socialism. Scientific socialism applied the dialectic method of the German philosopher GEORG HEGEL to the political and social spheres. Using discussion and reasoning as a form of intellectual investigation, Marx and Engels identified a historical progression in human society from SLAVERY to FEUDALISM and finally to capitalism.

Under capitalism?defined as a global system based on technology transcending national boundaries?society was divided into two components: the bourgeoisie, who owned the methods of production, and the proletariat, the laborers who operated the production facilities to produce goods. Marx and Engels predicted the disappearance of the middle class and ultimately a revolution as the vast proletariat wrested the methods of production from the control of the small bourgeoisie elite. This revolution would usher in an era when resources were owned by the people as a whole and markets were subject to cooperative administration.

The Communist Manifesto made less of an impact in the United States than in Europe, in part because the nation's attention was focused on the issue of slavery and the growing division between the North and South. When these tensions escalated into the Civil War, a great increase in industrialization led to the emergence of socialist labor organizations. At the same time, political REFUGEES from Europe contributed socialist theories to labor and

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political movements. In 1866, socialists who had been heavily influenced by German immigrants helped create the National Labor Union. Their efforts led to an 1868 statute (15 Stat. 77) establishing the eight-hour day for federal government workers; however, it went ignored and unenforced. The National Labor Union disappeared a few years after the death of its founder, William Sylvis, in 1869, but the ties between labor and socialism remained.

As socialists across Europe and the United States debated and extrapolated on Marx's initial definitions and their application under widely varying conditions, socialism gradually divided into three major philosophies: revisionism, ANARCHISM, and bolshevism. Revisionist socialism promoted gradual reform, compromise, and nonviolence. Initially, "reform" meant the nationalization of state and local public works and large-scale industries. Dedicated to democratic ideals, revisionists believed...

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