Socialism: An Outlook
Socialism is both an economic system and an ideology. A socialist economy features social rather than private ownership of the means of production. It also typically organises economic activity through planning rather than market forces, and gears production towards needs satisfaction rather than profit accumulation. Socialist ideology asserts the moral and economic superiority of an economy with these features, especially as compared with capitalism. Socialism, by democratizing, humanizing, and rationalizing economic relations, largely eliminates these problems.
Socialist ideology thus has both critical and constructive aspects. Critically, it provides an account of what’s wrong with capitalism; constructively, it provides a theory of how to transcend capitalism’s flaws, namely, by transcending capitalism itself, replacing capitalism’s central features (private property, markets, profits) with socialist alternatives (at a minimum social property, but typically planning and production for use as well).
How did it emerge?
The advent of industrial revolution in the 18th century led to a lot of social and economic changes in Great Britain followed by the whole world. Factory owners started making fortune, while many workers lived in increasing poverty, labouring for long hours under hazardous and dangerous conditions. This gave rise to the capitalism.
As the capitalist system expanded, the exploitation of the working class kept increasing. Therefore, there was a need for another system that would protect the rights of the working class and think about their welfare. This led to the emergence of socialism.
In its emphasis on public ownership of the means of production, socialism contrasted sharply with capitalism, which is based around a free market system and private ownership.
Why Socialism works?
Socialists typically single out certain moral and political values, argue that these values are poorly served under capitalism. Values drawn upon by socialists vary, but usually include democracy, non-exploitation, freedom (both formal and effective), community, and equality.
Under socialism, workers are no longer exploited because they own the means of production. Profits are spread equitably individual contributions. It also provides for those who can't work. It meets their basic needs for the good of the whole society.
The system eliminates poverty. It provides equal access to health care and education. No one is discriminated against.
If society needs jobs to be done that no one wants, it offers higher compensation to make it worthwhile for people to take them.
Natural resources are preserved for the good of the whole. Capitalism misallocates resources towards producing what is profitable rather than what is needed.
Socialists want democracy to have very broad scope; they want citizens to be highly involved in democratic processes; and they want citizens to have roughly equal opportunities to influence these processes.
Why it doesn’t work?
Socialism relies on the cooperative nature of humans to work. It ignores those within society who are competitive and focus on personal gain by working harder than others.
As a result, socialism doesn't reward people for being entrepreneurial. It struggles to be as innovative as a capitalistic society.
Also, the government has a lot of power. As long as the wishes of the people are represented, it works fine. But in the urge to centralise the power, government leaders can abuse this position and claim power for themselves.
Marx’s idea of socialism
According to Karl Marx, society was made up of classes. Some classes controlled the means of production and then used their control to exploit the labour class. In a book namely the communist manifesto, Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels mention about ”scientific socialism”. They believed that ‘scientific socialism' could only be established after a revolutionary class struggle, with the working class emerging on the top. His ideas were adopted by various political parties all around the globe.
In the real world, no economy is fully capitalist or socialist, but is a mixture. This is done to overcome the disadvantages of both systems. These are called mixed economies.
This is indeed the best option so far, economy has a mixture of all kinds of people with different needs and this mixed system takes care of it.
Socialism, just like capitalism, is a much broader concept and has multiple dimensions. This article provides you an overview of it. If you want to take a deep dive into it, “why socialism works” by Harrison Lievesley is highly recommended. It’s a satire which gives a detail reasoning of how and why socialism works.