The Concept of Socialism

The Concept of Socialism

The Concept of Socialism

The Concept of Socialism

Excerpt

Discussion of political doctrines such as Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism is an exceedingly hazardous enterprise. There are no clear criteria by which their identity can be determined, and this unavoidably leads to their caricature. F. A. Hayek, for example, presents an , extremely odd picture of Conservatism when he asserts, among other things, that the Conservative is 'essentially opportunist and lacks principles', is not much interested in limiting the powers of government, 'does not really believe in the power of argument', and rejects well‐ substantiated new knowledge simply because he dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it. David Spitz goes even further. He conveniently defines the liberal as a man whose 'basic value is the value of free inquiry, his basic attitude the skeptical or at least the inquiring mind ...' As he defines him, the liberal rejects all claims to absolute truths and always keeps an open mind, accepting only the results of rational inquiry. He thinks that Conservatives and Socialists do not share this attitude, and therefore dismisses them both as 'fanatical men', who 'claim possession of the truth ... (and) are both impervious to the results of scientific inquiry, to the tests of reason'. Spitz's equation of the Liberal with the rational man and his dismissal of all non-liberals as bigoted fanatics is not peculiar to him; it is to be found in many a liberal writer.

The fallacy is not peculiar to the Liberal; it is committed by Conservative and Socialist writers too. Several Conservative philosophers have conveniently defined their doctrine in terms of political realism, sense of history, appreciation of the role of passions in human life and love of order, and have directly or by implication so defined other political doctrines as to make one wonder how any decent human being could ever subscribe to them. Socialist writers too have sometimes defined socialism in terms of equality, justice, decentralisation of power and protection of minorities, thus depriving rival political doctrines of almost all humanistic content. Each political doctrine defines itself, and is defined by others, in a manner that suits their respective interests. It may or may not be true that to a Westerner all Chinese look alike, but certainly it seems true that to a political doctrine all its rivals look more or less alike.

Why this is so is a very difficult question that we cannot pursue here in detail. Excepting cases where writers deliberately use their theoretical analysis as a vehicle for subtle and not so subtle ideological propaganda . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.