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Socialism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 28 Jul 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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: 17.3 x 1.8 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"well written and enjoyable to read." (Giles Bentley, Socialist Review)

About the Author

Michael Newman is Professor of Politics at London Metropolitan University, where he is also Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration Studies and Director of the London European Research Centre. His previous publications include Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left (Merlin Press) and Democracy, Sovereignty and the European Union (Hurst).


Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback
The title of this book is somewhat misleading as the author clearly has an agenda, the agenda being to defend and promote the tenets of socialism. Now, the author's intentions are generously set out at the outset but this does not detract from the fact that some of his later rhetoric is hard to stomach (let alone fathom). A couple of choice examples occur towards the end, when Michael becomes manic in his persuasion:
"...poverty should be measured in relation to the wealth of contemporary society, rather than by historical standards." - p. 139
"Many believe that there was once a greater sense of shared values and think that crime, drugs, violence, and the constant breakdown of relationships have something to do with the excessive individualism of contemporary life. Yet this can also be a theme of the political Right, which calls for the restoration of traditional values. At its worst, this can be coupled with racism and xenophobia, with the argument that social breakdown and the loss of the old sense of community have been caused by migrants or asylum seekers." - p. 143

I wanted an overview, not a glorified pamphlet.
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Format: Paperback
Granted this is a vast subject, but how can an introduction to socialism make no mention of Ruskin, Morris, Wells, Richardson, Shaw, the Webbs and many other luminaries of the socialist movement in the UK? They formulated a very particular strand of the socialist ideal and should at the very least have been given a passing mention. Ruskin in particular was cited by many early members of the Parliamentary Labour Party as a greater influence on their thinking than Marx.
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