Does Socialism Really Differ That Much From Liberalism Politics Essay

The issue of organization and distribution of power within the society has preoccupied political and social researches since early history. During the bourgeois revolutions as in the post revolution times the European societies have confronted different socio-political beliefs. Each socio-political scientist was concerned about defining best ways of conduction and development of each country. However, since the rise of political ideologies in the nineteenth century, the implementation for the most efficient political system is still discussed. According to Heywood (2007:5), the study of a certain political ideology means, nevertheless, to decide which political thought or set of idea can be defined as political ideology. Socialism and liberalism are two different political ideologies with the common aim of human evolution. Socialism is the political ideology that promotes the abolishment of classes within a society attempting the recognition of the community and the development of the country as a whole whilst liberalism is aiming to construct a hierarchical society in which every individual has the right to a profit of its own work. This essay will give the definition of socialism and liberalism, will present a historical background of both ideologies and will discuss the differences between the above mentioned.

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By the early nineteenth century, the most important political ideologies have appeared. Socialism, liberalism and conservatism have developed as contrasting responses to the process of modernization. Even though socialism and liberalism emerged as a result to the Enlightenment, liberalism encouraged the growth of industrial capitalism and socialism believed that capitalism is a form of injustice.

In other instance, socialism is the political ideology which consists in empowering the policies and strategies that promote the idea that wealth within a country should be uniformly distributed based on the concept that every individual within the community has equal access to resources. The history of socialism starts in the nineteenth century with the development of industrial capitalism and the evolution of urban industrial society. Consequently, socialism appeared as a moral protest contra the bourgeoisie idea.

According to Hall (1949:55), socialism differs from liberalism with the simple fact that the first is an ideology totally based on scientific grounds.

Thereby, the concept of socialism is strongly linked to the name of Karl Marx, German philosopher and economist who wrote the theory of the Scientific Socialism with Friedrich Engels in the book “The Communist Manifesto” written in 1848.

In this book, Marx argued that the Capitalism is a failing system and that Socialism should replace it in order to create a classless society of pure communism which in his opinion was:

” only possible as the act of dominant people “all at once” and simultaneously which presupposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bounded with communism” Marx and Engels(1967:27)”.

During the history, socialism has been perceived in different ways and later generations of Marxists have showed greater interest in this ideology than Karl Marx himself. Consequently, Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov (Lenin) the first Soviet Union leader, has said in his book “What is to be done “([1902]1961) that the ideas of proletariat are a “socialist ideology”, this phrase coming in total contradiction to the concepts of Karl Marx.

Even though the concept of socialism has been perceived differently by each generation it has promoted the same idea that a Socialist State represents the workers class interest based on the idea that the economical system of a country should be operated with a plan of productions so that the bourgeoisie and personal profit is abolished. The best example of socialism can be represented by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics existent from 1922 to 1991. The Soviet Union foundation started with the Russian Civil War in 1917 when the Transcaucasia, Byelorussian and Ukrainian territories were unified. The Soviet countries were imposed to a socialist system while fighting for the dream of pure communism in which the resources within the country would be accessible equally to each individual and the nation would progress as a whole. On the other hand, socialism meant for these countries a social and intellectual comedown. According to Heywood (2007:5) political ideas and ideologies form the social element that incidentally creates social groups or entire societies with common beliefs and values. In this case, socialism has formed groups and societies in which individuals did not have the right and opportunity to create their own values and beliefs. However, the only concepts that unified them as a society was persuading the ideas imposed by the government, by the authorities.

In socialist countries as China, Cuba, USSR, people with innovatory ideas wanting to bring the change were persecuted making the nation to desist from a personal view and to homogenate people into a silent and complied society. The socialism has had sizeable negative impact on the populations involved both during its active existence as after its fall. People of the generation of socialism were dramatically used to the “equality” idea so that after their release from the socialist system individuals had no definition of self-determined life, how to incept, organize and work for a quality of their condition, for a profit of the own work and of social contribution. All countries on a socialist political system have a dictatorship, a form of government in which the nation is ruled by a leader, a dictator. Dictatorships may take the form of government in which the leader has the power to lead without needing the consent from those being lead.

Examples of dictatorships are: Fidel Castro in Cuba, Francisco Franco in Spain, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Josip Tito in Yugoslavia. In other instances the dictatorship becomes totalitarianism, where the government rules almost every aspect of the people’s life and behavior.

An overview on liberalism

Many attempts have been made in order to classify political ideas and ideologies and to find the common points between them. However, the traditional way to do so, remains the left-right political spectrum. This is being used in order to express the political belief of a person. Furthermore, in the left-right political spectrum, people refer to left wing, right wing or center. On an imaginary scale, communism would be placed in the far left followed by socialism consequently, fascism in the far right and liberalism in the center. The political spectrum and the imaginary scale aim to outline the contrasts between these ideologies. Thereby, left-wingers are concerned with equality and right-wingers believe in wealth and property.

Liberalism, the centre in the political spectrum, is the ideology based on the concept that each individual has the right to property and personal profit of wealth. In what concerns the function of a state, Liberalism supports and promotes the idea of democracy, fair elections and capitalism. However, the concept of liberalism divides in two subcategories: classical liberalism and social liberalism. The term of classical liberalism is meant to define the liberalism that appeared before the eighteenth century. This concept promoted the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and free market. Regarding the state, liberalism defined the belief in economic primacy and minimal government. The adepts of liberalism believed that the capitalism is the most efficient social and economic form of function of a state. The above mentioned, believed that, the society consists of individuals and each individual has the freedom to act in his personal interest and be motivated by the profit in order to produce the required products at the most appropriate cost-efficient standards. In consequence, the market and the worker would receive an expected reward and the economic system would be organized efficiently and meet consumer?s needs.

Socialism and Liberalism: the tangency

The only tangency between socialism and liberalism is that both defend the mixed economy and government regulation. However, liberalism and Socialism differ in any other aspects. The most important difference is that Liberalism has proved to be an efficient system whilst political doctrine has proved over time the total contraire about Socialism.

Not only the Socialism and Liberalism differ so much, they also fought one contra the other during history. United States and the Soviet Union continue to be in a tremendous conflict of opinions and wish of domination. Therefore, this wish of domination as the parallel critics has lead to an imaginary world division between West and East. Moreover, the conflict between these major powers of the world represented by violent attacks and competition had consequences in non-adept, neutral countries all over the globe. In consequence, countries like Vietnam and Afghanistan were unwillingly involved and suffered violent attacks due to the conflict between the Soviet Union and United States. The result of this continuous Cold War has nevertheless a colossal impact on these major powers? capital and society.

Marxists argue that capitalism is a threat to liberty. On the contrary, there is no negation that capitalism and liberalism are strongly linked with each other and this is due to the fact that liberalism has considered capitalism an efficient way of achieving its own ends (Hall 1949:36) and the fact that liberalism finds a considerable connection between the commerce and the liberty. In addition, Marxists argue that the official freedoms of a liberal society mean to mask the hidden exploitation that can end by abolishing capitalism and creating substantive freedom.


Socialism appeared to be an illusionist ideology with impalpable motives and disappointing results as stated by O’Sullivan (1995:28) “what the socialist mid refuses to accept is that all socialism is based upon coercion”.

However, the social history and the political doctrine leave no space for doubts in what regards the differences between socialism and liberalism. For this reason, no nation or political leader can affirm the extreme right or wrong between this two. However, the history, the consequences and the impact of socialism and liberalism made nations throughout the world understand the importance of the human evolution and the matter of life as part of an entire or as individuals. In present, the fear of coercion has made nations and societies stronger and more self determined in fighting for their own freedom. But is Socialism still alive in countries that have long ago been released or is it that we are relegating ourselves in a new kind of socialism? Is the European Union a safe oasis in which European countries can maintain their freedom whilst developing at large scale or are we hiding ourselves in the strongest socialism? If it is so, what is the duration of this new retouched ideology?