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Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Michael Newman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 July 2005 Very Short Introductions
What is socialism? Does it have a future, or has it become an outdated ideology in the 21st century?

Michael Newman examines and explains the successes and failures of modern socialism by taking an international perspective — ranging from communism in Cuba to social democracy in Sweden. Discussing its evolution from the industrial towns of the 19th century to its response to the feminist, green, and anti-capitalist movements today, Newman concludes that, with its values of equality, solidarity, and cooperation, socialism remains as relevant as ever but that it needs to learn lessons from the past.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (28 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Michael Newman is Director of the London European Research Center Faculty of Humanities and Teacher Education at the University of North London. He is the author of Democracy, Sovereignty and the European Union, Harold Laski--A Political Biography, and Socialism and European Unity.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The chips are down 21 Oct 2007
By calmly
An outstanding introduction and a meaty one too. Now that I've read three books in the "very short introduction" series, it has been a pleasant surprise to see how formidable these book are.

References, suggestions for further reading and a 9 page index are included.

Newman does not hide the problems that socialists have had but neither does he fail to recognize the ways in which they might help.

The analyses of Cuban communism and Swedish social democracy were illuminating. Socialism may not have dominated, but it has not always been the failure that it is made out to be.

Newman claims "What can be maintained with confidence is that capitalism will not be able to resolve the problems and injustices that it causes...and that socialist arguments remain relevant". He notes the challenge, beyond whatever problems socialists themselves have in running an economy, that "At present, Washington is opposed to any international regimes that might limit its autonomy and is willing to use its power to thwart their development."

Unlike the literature I've read of many socialist parties, which tend to be simplistic and shallow in analysis, Newman does manage in this "very short introduction" multi-dimensional explorations of the challenges facing socialism. He continues to value the role of trade unions, the greens and feminists. The socialist effort is fragmented and it is not clear in what ways it can be effective. Like many socialists, Newman's moral concerns seem clear but Newman's openness and flexibility seems all the more valuable at a time when many socialist groups seem dogmatic and rigid.

Newman's "very short introduction" seems one of the best statements on what Socialism today has to offer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful overview, with interesting points raised 20 May 2007
The book covers a useful analysis of the roots of socialism, and then chronicles how it diverged into communism on the one hand and more moderate social democratic parties on the other hand. To illustrate this, there is an interesting comparison between communists and social democrats in action, with a chapter dedicated to how Cuba and Sweden used the respective systems in their public policy, often allowing it to cross fertilise with cultural mores (especially true of Sweden), and a discussion of how the Cuban system may not survive Castro's death, being as it is largely based on Castro's personal charisma. By contrast, the Swedish system has much better prospects for long term survival, although it did struggle during the neo-liberal 1980s.

There is also an interesting look at how "green" policies have influenced recent socialist thinking, explaining how this was a significant challenge to traditional socialism and communism, both of which took unlimited growth and industrial activity for granted. By contrast, the greens argued that the emphasis should be on managed growth, and that if this growth threatened the planet, growth should be stopped. Interestingly the greens believed that this was simply an extension of the socialist belief that whilst traditional socialists should care for society's members now, they also had a duty to look after the planet and thus take care of society's future members.

The author also examines how socialism has fragmented, with increasing attention being paid to gender and ethnicity, and less to class amongst more recent writers, a considerable break with tradition. One refreshing feature of the book is the author's honesty, and far from being a partisan rant, the author freely admits that his/her ideology has its flaws and that amending them is not going to be easy. All in all, a good introduction to the semi-interested reader, but more interested readers in the subject of socialism may need to read a more "deep" text.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview 3 Feb 2011
By ChrisG
"Socialism: A very Short Introduction" is a real find. The author paints a good general overview of the history of Socialism, before offering 2 important and contrasting case studies: Cuba and Sweden. The book also contained helpful material on Marx and "false consciousness" et al. I thought the sections on future issues were also of real importance. In the World of the post-financial crash, Socialism is far from being dead, far from it. Arguments about inequality and the conflict of interest between who owns the wealth and who creates it are just starting to get revved up again. A worthwhile addition.
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4.0 out of 5 stars adm01 12 Mar 2012
By bonnie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
gives a good understanding of the topic, in plain language. Is clearly what it says, a short introduction to socialism and its roots.
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