What Is Socialism, What Does It Mean?

What Is Socialism, What Does It Mean?

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Socialism is one of the currents of political thought, which has been influential in our age – especially in the 20th century – and on which there is still a wide variety of debates. The word “socialism” was used in France and England between 1830 and 1840. The first known use belongs to the French thinker and politician Pierre Leroux. Leroux used the concept of “socialism” in 1832 to express an ideal social order in which equality and freedom are reconciled. According to the French thinker, socialism is the opposite of absolute individualism.


Socialist thought defines itself in terms of a struggle, a conflict that has been going on since ancient times: the fight between the rich and the poor, those who own the means of production and those who have nothing but their labor. According to socialist thought, the struggle for equality has always been in the Ancient Age (slave-master), the Middle Ages (serf-seigneur), during the French Revolution (bourgeois-aristocratic) and later (worker/proletarian-employer/capitalist). has existed. These inequalities are reflected more and more prominently in the field of political thought.

Socialist thinkers have evaluated society – and thus history – in which inequalities have always existed, in the context of conflicts between different classes. Indeed, XIX. Karl Marx (1818-1883), one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century and the main reference source of socialist thought, argued that the history of humanity is the history of class struggles.

Socialism’s taking its place in the history of political thought in its modern sense has been possible with the realization of two interrelated historical events. The first of these events is the Industrial Revolution, and the second is the “working class” that emerged as a result of industrialization, and the “proletariat” with another common usage.

Industrial Revolution, XVIII. It started in England in the 19th century and spread throughout Continental Europe in a short time. For example, in France, the completion of the Industrial Revolution occurred after the 1850s, that is, in the XIX. occurred in the second half of the century.

The problems caused by capitalism, which became stronger after the Industrial Revolution, can be grouped under the following general headings:

Free competition did not create equality in balance and conditions, it led to the concentration of wealth in certain hands,
This monopoly brought about by the capitalist order has led to overproduction and depressions.
Industrialization has not improved the condition of the working class, but has worsened it.

Socialists generally sought solutions to these problems. Their ultimate goal was to completely eliminate inequality. Some of them – just like the Enlightenment thinkers – argued that people’s suffering and misery, the injustices they suffered, would come to an end with the remedies they offered.

According to these thinkers, the reason why there was no remedy for these injustices was due to the fact that the ideas that would ensure equality were not known in previous periods. These thinkers, who tend to resolve the fundamental contradiction created by the relationship between thought and matter, by bringing thought to the fore, are called “utopian socialists” in the history of political thought.


The use of the word socialism goes back to the first quarter of the 19th century. Many conflicting theses conflict about the date the word was first used and the eponym of the word (J. Elleinstein, 1984). These partially anecdotal debates raise a fundamental problem, however: when did socialism begin to “produce” (E. Durkheim)?

In 1766, the monk Ferdinand Facchinei stated that he understood the word socialismo as the doctrine of a society based on mutual agreement, which originally consisted of free and equal people. The word was used twenty years later by another Italian writer, Appiano Buonafede. In 1803, this word is found in the pen of a Vicenze clergyman, Giacomo Giulani; Giulani tried to refute the individualist theories of the 16th century. The modern use of the word, however, was born in France and England at roughly the same time, between 1830 and 1840 (Elie Halévy)

The word became popular in England during discussions of the Association of all classes off all nations, founded by Robert Owen in 1835. Elie Halevy says the following about this subject: “The word reflected the extremely popular trend of Robert Owen in the context of his contribution to the very important “Socialism” article of André Lalande’s Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie, and according to this, a free community of cooperative associations and the state Without its help, a new economic and moral world could have been established in revolt against the state.

The same author, in a letter he sent to the French Philosophical Society, part of which was published in the Supplément du Vocabulaire de la philosophie, states that “he came across the word Socialist or even Socialism in a revolutionary newspaper in London on August 24, 1833”. “The newspaper A socialist published a letter signed. Therefore, it must be admitted that the word was widely used in England at that time.” The word socialist is used in France as S.