Socialism and Communism

Authored by: Theodore Burczak

Routledge Handbook of Marxian Economics

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138774933
eBook ISBN: 9781315774206
Adobe ISBN:


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Classical socialism was a movement to replace the unplanned and exploitative institutions of capitalism with national planning, public ownership and distribution according to human need rather than by the arbitrary capriciousness of the market. Its goals were to distribute economic resources broadly among the people in order to create the conditions for widespread, substantive freedom and to end alienating, exploitative labor processes. Socialism promised all people the resources to live a flourishing life, not just the market freedom to exchange, which offered no guarantee of a decent standard of living. This traditional socialist project was derived from Marx and Engels’ dream of a future that would transcend the allocative and distributional anarchy of the market through the abolition of private property and the establishment of social ownership of the means of production and central planning. For instance, in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx and Engels explicitly called for “abolition of property in land” and the “extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State” (Marx and Engels 1978, 490). In Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels lamented the anarchy of the market while describing socialism as a state in which “[s]ocialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible” (Engels 1978, 717). Socialism, or perhaps the more advanced form of communism, would realize the human potential to harness productive forces to achieve a rational economic order, social justice and real freedom for all.

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