Forty definitions of socialism

1940 Germany: Statism or Socialism?

The Trumpist GOPher Party is making every effort to paint all Democrats as SOCIALIST ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. Many and most of the GOPhers are not equipped to under take the endeavor to do so. These GOPhers are too uninformed on the subject of socialism. None have to be concerned about being called intellectuals.

I saw this Meme equating socialism in the 21st century to the “socialism” of nazis and fascist in the mid 20th century. I had to respond.

My first thought is do some homework. Do some information digging. So I did.

My first goggle search uncovered a book on the Oxford Scholarship web site entitled Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives. Only a paragraph or two about the book, but informative. I continued my search and found an article on the VOX web site that hit the nail on the head. A paragraph I copied and used in a post to respond to the Meme below. The story included information about Republicans such as Mo Brooks and Louie Ghomert who draw parallels from the socialism of Hitler’s 3rd Reich and 21st century socialism. They draw this parallel not with an understanding of Nazi socialism but with a misunderstanding. As does the creator of the Meme below. Google can be your path to understanding, if understanding is what you pursue. But the creator of this Meme, like Louie and Mo were not searching for understanding.

An important point from the discussion of socialism on the Stanford Philosophy web site. This section of the discussion addresses the Meme directly. The Nazi, Fascist control of Germany and Italy and other countries in the mid 20th century was STATISM and not Socialism, as described below.

An important point about this definition of socialism is that socialism is not equivalent to, and is arguably in conflict with, statism. (i*) involves expansion of social power—power based on the capacity to mobilize voluntary cooperation and collective action—as distinct from state power—power based on the control of rule-making and rule enforcing over a territory—as well of economic power—power based on the control of material resources (Wright 2010). If a state controls the economy but is not in turn democratically controlled by the individuals engaged in economic life, what we have is some form of statism, not socialism (see also Arnold n.d. in Other Internet Resources (OIR); Dardot & Laval 2014).


Definition of Statism: a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs.


While I may have addressed the Meme, I was left with wanting to know more about socialism. One of my favorite sites is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. If you enjoy reading casually about Philosophy, it’s a great source of information. I clicked my link and used the table of contents to locate any writings on socialism and found only one that fit the term socialism.

Socialism is best defined in contrast with capitalism

capitalism involves certain relations of production

…control over the productive forces—the labor power that workers deploy in production and the means of production such as natural resources, tools, and spaces they employ to yield goods and services—and certain social patterns of economic interaction that typically correlate with that control.

…existence of wage labor is often seen by socialists as a necessary condition for a society to be counted as capitalist…

…Typically, workers (unlike capitalists) must sell their labor power to make a living.

In contrast to capitalism, socialism can be defined as a type of society in which, at a minimum, (i) is turned into (i*):
(i*)The bulk of the means of production is under social, democratic control.

When characterizing socialist views, it is useful to distinguish between three dimensions of a conception of a social justice (Gilabert 2017a). We identify these three dimensions as:


(DI)the core ideals and principles animating that conception of justice;


(DII)the social institutions and practices implementing the ideals specified at DI;


(DIII)the processes of transformation leading agents and their society from where they are currently, to the social outcome specified in DII.

Stanford Philosophy

This discussion of Socialism is excellent and for anyone truly interested in discovering a scholarly definition of Socialism, and not an impeachment of the idea of socialism, it is a must read.

I’ve taken a few ideas from the essay and posted here to provide an idea of the content of the discussion.

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