The Future of Socialism

By Amin, Samir | Monthly Review, July-August 1990 | Go to article overview

The Future of Socialism

Amin, Samir, Monthly Review

It is surely time to raise the issue of the future of socialism once again. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the ideological offensive of the ultra-liberal right has forced the predominantly social-democratic elements of the Western left to fall broadly into line. In the Third World, autonomous development has been systematically undermined in favor of the demands of world capitalism. Last but not least, the sudden collapse of East European regimes may pave the way for integration of these countries into the capitalist world system. Triumphant liberal ideology proclaims the definitive failure of socialism.

For those who believe, as I do, that socialism offers a system of values never fully achieved, and not a constructed model on display in any particular place, the issue is infinitely more complex. Quite frankly, today's real danger is that the illusions of the peoples of the West, East, and South can only mean that the inevitable failure of today's triumphant liberalism may be disastrous for the popular classes, once they are ideologically and politically disarmed. More than ever, I would argue that the choice lies between socialism or barbarism.

It might be helpful to begin this analysis with a critique of the three fundamental bases of the fashionable liberal thesis.

First liberal axiom: The "market" represents economic rationality per se, outside any specific social context. (In its extreme version: Without the market, only chaos.)

This erroneous postulate expresses the economistic alienation essential for capitalist "legitimacy." Nothing more. The market does not in fact rationalize social relations. On the contrary, the framework of social relations determines how the market will operate. From an alienated, economistic standpoint, economic laws are analogous to laws of nature and exert external forces on every human action, and the economy is the product of determinate social behavior.' There is no economic rationality per se, but merely the expression of the demands of a social system at the level of economic management.

But no such social system is rational from a humanist point of view if it fails to meet the needs of the human beings subject to it. Unemployment, polarization in world development, and ecological waste are manifestations of the irrationality of this system which I call really existing capitalism. These negative phenomena are, purely and simply, necessary products of the market. The rationality of the market reproduces the irrationalities of the social system.

Second liberal axiom: Democracy equals capitalism. (Put more emphatically: Without capitalism, no democracy.)

This is mere trickery. Contemporary trends of opinion, broadly typified by Anglo-American evolutionism, impoverish the debate by treating democracy as a set of narrowly-defined rights and practices, independent of the desired social result. This democracy can then stabilize the society by leaving the evolution" to "objective forces." The latter are in the last resort governed by science and technology, 2 operating independently of the human will. Hence the functional role of the revolutionary process in history can be played down.

Socialist thought lies poles apart from this line of argument. The analysis of economic alienation provided by Marx, central to any scientific and realistic understanding of capitalist reproduction, rehabilitates the crucial function of revolutions, moments of qualitative transformation and crystallization of potentialities inconceivable without them. In each of the three great revolutions of the modern world (the French, the Russian, and the Chinese), the play of ideas and social forces at moments of radicalization succeeded in moving far beyond the requirements of historical, objectively necessary social transformation. Jacobin democracy did more than merely establish bourgeois power. Although the democracy operated in a framework of private ownership, its anxiety to establish power genuinely at the service of the people clashed with merely bourgeois needs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Future of Socialism


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.