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on 3 June 2017
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on 18 November 2014
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.
One person found this helpful
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on 1 September 2016
Anyone wanting a starter for ten in socialism - this is the book for you
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on 10 September 2016
Very interesting book and well written
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on 12 March 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 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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on 17 July 2014
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on 24 December 2014
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.
4 people found this helpful
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on 1 February 2016
I feel this is quite a good overview of a broad and at times difficult to define subject; it does fall down in a couple of areas, I feel it let's Castro's Cuba off quite lightly with regards to its treatment of its own people, and also seems to paint Sweden in quite utopian terms, seeming to forget that Sweden practiced eugenics up until recently.
I also feel the last half of the last chapter is almost laughable, after skirting around human rights abuses in Cuba and Sweden (although acknowledging them in Soviet Union etc) to accuse capitalism of encouraging racism is a bit rich, and to suggest relative poverty is the key issue as opposed to absolute is actually offensive, and I would say in itself racist, as it suggests that the plight of people in the west who have to make do with a 52" TV instead of a 72" are more important than those in India and Africa who cannot afford to eat.
3 people found this helpful
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on 3 February 2011
"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.
3 people found this helpful
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