What would happen if we all made the same amount of money? To understand what our society would be as socialist, we must understand the difference between socialist and capitalist ideas. The question becomes not so much as what is socialism, but how does it differ from capitalism, and what is wrong with capitalistic ideas to where we would need socialism.
The problem becomes where do you draw the line between capitalism and socialism to where we have trust, sense of community and also competition? If the answer were that simple we would live in a perfect society. A problem that is happening in our society is that intellectual conversations about our society and nations problems are not occurring. With our individualistic lifestyle we have so little time for ourselves that we would rather fill our minds with stuff like sports, movies and television sitcoms that further numb our minds. In this era, media and advertising have become the norm on how you are to think and behave. Many people do not even know what the difference between capitalism and socialism, which is a problem. So many people fill their minds with media filler and eventually develop a vast useless knowledge of pop culture. A lot of people are so far removed form societal intellect that to discuss great theories about society and its effects are impossible. These thought blockers allow a mental escape from daily stressors and can even create enjoyment in peoples lives, but these things block community conversations that could be powerful enough to create a great paradigm shift in the way we think and live.
Karl Marx was a liberal reformist who believed that capitalism could be reformed and inequality and exploitation of the working classes could be addressed and abolished.
Marx sees capitalism as a mode of production emerging from feudalism. He focuses on capitalism as an unequal mode of production, one which exploits workers, just as the slave state exploited slaves. In Volume 1 of Capital, Marx elaborated his version of the labor theory value and his conception of surplus value and exploitation which would ultimately lead to a falling rate of profit in the collapse of industrial capitalism.
According to Marx, this inequality is a fundamental aspect of capitalism, and needs to be changed through dialectical struggle. Marx believed that the internal tensions and contradictions of capitalism will eventually destroy capitalism, and capitalism will evolve into socialism, which would be a utopian mode of production.
Karl Marx and Frederich Engels believed that the government and upper class could not just give up and create a classless society. He believed that the constant struggles of the class system would force the working class into a revolution. Through dialectical materialism set by Georg Hegel, Marx was able to create a theory of a classless society. This society would be achieved through the joint union of the middle class, proletarians, and overthrow of the governing upper class, bourgeois. Marx realized that with the unification of the working class, they would be able to better themselves and their lives, and in doing so, better society on the whole.
The focus of Marx’s philosophical writings about social structure is alienation. He believes that social or psychological alienation arises out of economic or material alienation. In other words, consciousness is determined by material conditions. He states that the alienated person feels a lack of meaning in his life, or a lack of self-realization. There are three types of alienation. The first type of alienation is alienation from oneself. The second type of alienation is alienation from his fellow human beings, and the third type of alienation is alienation from the world as a whole.
Marx sees material alienation as the cause of social or psychological alienation. Material alienation he said is caused by the existence of private property. Private property came into existence through the unequal division of labor. Division of labor, therefore, is the central idea in which he bases his arguments concerning the outcome of alienated labor. According to Marx, “Labor produces itself and the worker as a commodity – and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally”. He sees this as the ultimate surrendering of the human spirit to the material alienation of capitalism, and that it is a cycle that can and must be broken in order to allow the worker to express himself.
Marx explains that the division of labor began with the family, “where wife and children are the slaves of the husband” and therefore became husband’s property. Marx says that this corresponds precisely the definition of unequal division of labor in the modern society. Where an employer degraded a worker until the worker becomes the private property of the industry and therefore no different than a slave. Just as a slave is not free to decide whether or not to work on a given day, neither is the worker. Both must work in order to survive.
Specialization in a capitalistic society causes alienation. Fredrick Taylor’s ideas of Scientific Management have created extreme separation of the classes. As the Industrial Revolution progressed through out the world, so did the gap between the class structures. The development of a capitalist society was a very favorable goal for the upper class. By using advanced methods of production introduced by the Industrial Revolution, they were able to earn a substantial surplus by ruling the middle class. Thus, maintaining their present class of life, while the middle class was exploited and degraded. Before specialization in the workforce occurred, societies of people were able to substitute tasks for each other. In our society, it is not possible for many people to trade tasks. This can create class conflict which, in turn creates jealousy and so forth.
Jealousy is another factor of the downside to capitalism. We have been socialized as young children that the American dream consists of a family, nice autos, and home ownership. But sadly, the white picket fence dream encourages further alienation from community. Keeping up with the Jones is a phrase that almost everyone is familiar with. This individualistic attitude encourages crime and distrust of our neighbors. This may not sound good, but trying to change our society to total socialist ideas may not be the answer.
Even thought specialization leads to alienation, it benefits the technological advancements and financial quality of life in a capitalistic society. What comes in to question is the quality of community. Technology like the internet encourages us to stay in touch and communicate faster and more efficient, but on the downside we lose one on one personal interaction, which in turn creates trusting bonds that can not be formed as strongly with out personal interaction. Our nation in its capitalist society has a definite lack of trust. We lock our doors at night and lock our cars so that other community members do not cause harm to us. Many theorists trace this lack of trust directly to our capitalist ideas of “watch out for #1(yourself)”. Competition can encourage dishonest behavior, especially in the business area. Not everyone makes it to the top, and not everyone makes it their honestly. Our capitalist society encourages individualism, which can not promote a sense of community, this is where some socialist ideas may be better.
The views of Socialism were the complete opposite of the views of Adam Smith, who was for Capitalism. Smith believed that, in an economy, government should have absolutely no control over business. He thought that businesses were free to make their own decisions, set their own prices, and compete at any level. He believed that there was an “invisible hand” guiding business in the right direction, and that if there were a problem, this “hand” will solve it. Socialists believed that government should have total control over business; they should set prices and decide what to produce. In turn, all forms of competition would be ruled out. This way they figured everyone would be equal.
The idea of socialism may not work in all forms because it would not encourage people to take advantage of their abilities. For example, if all things were equal then football stars, with true unique talent, may never be able to take advantage of their potential. Instead, they may flip burgers along side people with other great talents. Would you like to have brain surgery from a doctor that had a potential of a pooper scooper? That may sound ridiculous, but it might not be so far off. It has been proven over and over again that people need a motivator of some kind to fulfill goals, especially if there are not goals of their own. So instead of having a pooper scooper for a brain surgeon, we probably would not have brain surgeons that were any good, if we had them at all. Why would anyone want to sign up for a job that would take years of schooling to get paid the same as someone that never went to school.
Another disadvantage to socialism would be quality. It all things are equal then advancements in everything would slowly cease. If everyone were to make the same amount of money and things such as health care were all government controlled, why would anyone spend extra time on new ideas if they were compensated. Why would drug companies risk spending a lot of money on the development in new drugs if they were going to make the same amount of money as everyone else. Socialism simply discourages competition.
Socialism could easily lead to a conflict of who is controlling who. The Socialist Party’s Philosophy stands for a new social and economic order in which workers and consumers will take responsibility for and control of production, and residents will take responsibility for and control of their homes, schools, and local government. The problem with that can be traced back to problems of food production. Who is controlling how much is produced and when, and do we trust that they are properly educated to make these decisions? If we live in a socialist society then we still have to put people in charge of schools, local government and so forth. With that occurring, who is making the decisions on who gets to do what, when and where? Capitalism is something that we have been socialized into. It is more that an economic system, it is the way that we think. Capitalists would not make an easy transition to a Socialist society.