Industrial Revolution and the rise of Socialism
There are many ideologies that the world is based upon. The great cultures of this world are based upon different ideologies. An ideology is “the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.” Many of the famous ideologies such as communism, socialism, utopianism, liberalism, conservatism, capitalism and utilitarianism are based upon the experiences and circumstances faced by people during the Industrial revolution. Socialism is “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” Socialism is important because it gives people a sort of escape from the discriminatory and hierarchy based capitalism. In socialism based economy, everything is owned by the public. The Industrial revolution contributed greatly to the rise of socialism in a way that it gave the world an escape from the ideology that it was based upon.
When historians and scholars in the 18th century started to think about the future, this was a new thing to do. Up until then, people looked backwards, not forwards. The great days of Europe had been during the empires of Athens and Rome, two thousand years ago. By the end of the 18th century, three important things had happened: the French and American Revolution and the start of the industrial revolution in England. Scholars began to think about the future, now that politics and technology seemed to be changing fast. Particularly important were three French scholars: Condorcet, Saint-Simon
and Comte. Condorcet was important as one of the earliest people to outline a series of stages through which the human society had developed, something Karl Marx did later on. Saint-Simon was important because he was one of the first people to recognize the importance of an industrial society. He believed that scientists and inventions would be the forces which would govern the societies in the future, not the aristocracy. He also believed that the society would develop through the policies adopted by leaders, not because of the laws of the market. Finally, Comte expanded upon the ideas of Saint-Simon and invented the word “sociology”. The first modern socialists were early 19th century Western European social critics. In this period, socialism emerged from a diverse array of doctrines and social experiments associated primarily with British and French thinkers such as Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and Louis Blanc. These socialists criticized the excesses of poverty and inequality of the industrial revolution. They also advocated reforms such as egalitarian distribution of wealth and the transformation of society into small communities in which private property was to be abolished. Outlining principles for the reorganization of society along collectivist lines, they sought to build socialism on the foundation of planned, utopian communities.
Socialism, like other ideologies, had a very significant effect on the lives of people and the society as a whole. The social democratic governments in the post war period introduced measures of social reform and wealth redistribution through state welfare and taxation policy. For instance, the newly elected UK Labour government carried out nationalisations of major utilities such as mines, gas, coal, electricity, rail, iron
and steel and the Bank of England. France claimed to be the most state controlled capitalist country in the world, carrying through many nationalisations. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service was established, bringing free health care to all for the first time. Social housing for working class families was provided in council housing estates and university education was made available for working class people through a grant system. Free school milk was introduced by Ellen Wilkinson, Minister for Education, who told the 1946 Labour Party conference: "Free milk will be provided in Hoxton and Shoreditch, in Eton and Harrow. What more social equality can you have than that?" Attlee's biographer states that this "contributed enormously to the defeat of childhood illnesses resulting from bad diet. Generations of poor children grew up stronger and healthier because of this one small and inexpensive act of generosity by the Attlee government". Socialism also was an influential factor in determining the economical methods and position of a country. A socialist economic system included state ownership of the means of production and distribution. In the Soviet Union, state ownership of productive property was combined with central planning. Down to the workplace level, Soviet economic planners decided what goods and services were to be produced, how they were to be produced, in what quantities, and at what prices they were to be sold. Soviet economic planning was promoted as an alternative to allowing prices and production to be determined by the market through supply and demand. Especially during the Great Depression, many socialists considered Soviet-style planning a remedy to what they saw as the inherent flaws of capitalism, such as monopolies, business cycles,
unemployment, vast inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and the exploitation of workers.
There are many positive aspects of socialism. These values best define what the benefits of socialism are. Everyone benefits from Equal Opportunity which can be defined as “policies and practices in employment and other areas that do not discriminate against persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, mental or physical handicap, or national origin.” Also, socialism contributed to the growth of harmony, “the agreement of people's feelings, opinions”, amongst people of socialist countries since there were no class differences. Another value associated with socialism would be simplicity which is “freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts”. Tolerance can also be classified as a value of socialism. Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc.” The last value that can be associated with socialism would be Human Rights, which are “fundamental rights, especially those believed to belong to an individual”.
Socialism is an ideal ideology to be put into effect because of many reasons. It is a political idea, which states that people should have as far as possible equal access and opportunity to the good things in life, and that they should be able to use their skills to their full advantage. In the era of the industrial revolution, socialism was an issue developed to counter the inequality and unfairness of capitalism. In the factory system,
there was hierarchy that consisted of owners at the top and the laborers at the very bottom. In this system, the rich got richer and the poor also got rich but relatively slowly compared to the rich. People were discriminated against because of their class. Conditions in the factories were poor. They were unhygienic. The concept of socialism was that everything was owned publicly owned. Any profit a company got was distributed equally between the people of the community. The class system was abolished. Socialist ownership of the means of production is ownership by all workers. Capitalists cease to exist and workers cease to be their employees. Ownership by workers of necessity has to be collective ownership by society as a whole. Modern means of production cannot be divided up among workers like the hand tools of old. They have to be owned and used in common. They could of course be parceled out to groups of workers (e.g., workers' cooperatives). However, if they were, the level of ownership of each worker would be considerably constrained. Social ownership is central to removing the shackles that hold back the economy under capitalism. Society can now control the economy and be free of the anarchy of capitalism. And production is aimed at maximizing the satisfaction of human needs rather than the profits of capitalists. In another sense socialist ownership is highly individual. Collective ownership is not ownership by 'the collective’; it is joint ownership by individual co-owners. This is reflected in the fundamental change in the position of the worker. If workers own the means of production they cannot be means to their exploitation. They have to be means to their fulfillment and development both as producers and consumers. As producers work
becomes a free and self-affirming activity. Workers are now individuals whereas before they were part of a 'collective' mob of non-owning wage earners employed by a small minority of owners. With everybody an owner, socialism is genuine free enterprise. Co-ownership is also reflected in the distribution of the final product, with workers sharing a similar level of prosperity.
In conclusion, it is evident that the rise of sociology can be contributed to the rise of the industrial revolution. The unfairness of the capitalists became the guiding beacon for the socialists that were striving to make everything equal for everyone. Many countries like USSR have run under socio-communism and many, like China, continue to do so. It can be also noted that China is poised to be the next superpower of the world. So it is safe to say that socialism is not “inefficient”. The world waits the day that some concepts of sociology like equality can be applied to all countries of the world.