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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The chips are down, 21 Oct 2007
This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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
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M. McManus - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
"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
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Overview, 18 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
A good way to get a global overview of socialist policies, from Marxism to social democracy and lots in between, though it doesn't focus much on British old Labour.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best, 13 Oct 2014
This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I have always wanted to understand socialism and this book is the best.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 July 2014
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This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Useful
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1 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOCIALISM IN A NUTSHELL, 14 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Any book about the successes of socialism is bound to be fairly short and this book doesn't disappoint!

However the author is too self effacing really to explore fully the tragedy of the millions of lives ended prematurely or otherwise blighted by this evil cancer, understandably so since this would transform it into rather a long book.
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Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Michael Newman (Paperback - 28 July 2005)
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