The characteristics of socialism are the search for equality, the redistribution of wealth and the abolition of social classes, among others. Socialism is described as an economic and political system in which the means of production operate under public ownership, which is sometimes also called common property. This common property can be taken in a democratic or voluntary way, or on the contrary, in a totalitarian way.
Likewise, it can be seen as a system in which the production and distribution of goods is exercised by substantial government control, rather than by private companies.
Socialism was developed in its early days as an objection to liberal individualism and capitalism. Among the most famous of the early socialist thinkers are Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin.
It was mainly Lenin who expounded on the ideas of the socialists and was involved in socialist planning at the national level after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia during 1917.
This system assumes that the basic nature of people is cooperative, that nature has not yet fully emerged because capitalism or feudalism forced people to be competitive. Therefore, a fundamental principle of socialism is that the economic system must be compatible with this basic nature.
In theory, this system means that everyone has the right to participate in decisions about how global resources are used. This means that no one is able to take personal control of resources, beyond their own belongings.
In practice, it can mean that all power is in the hands of the state and the people must comply with what it commands.
List of 17 characteristics of socialism
Economic planning is a characteristic of socialism, since instead of allowing the free play of a lucrative market, it coordinates everything under planning.
The absence of planning in socialism cannot exist, since according to his theory, the systematic improvement of the material and cultural conditions of the masses requires a plan.
2- Redistribution of income
In socialism, inherited wealth and material income are bound to be reduced. How to do this will depend on the type of government that implements it.
On the other hand, social security benefits, free medical care, as well as social welfare services provided by the collective bag, are sought to be brought to the less privileged classes.
3- Search for economic-social equality
The moral imperative of the theory of socialism is equality, since it considers that only by introducing greater equality in economic relations can the situation of working classes be improved.
To cast a common standard in economic progress, the goal it describes is to provide equal opportunity for all. Hence, socialism has been called in the past as the economic philosophy of the suffering classes, since all socialist movements aspired to a more humane society.
The principles that this doctrine evokes are also brotherhood, cooperation, social communion and camaraderie.
However, critics consider it a mistake to think that socialism can achieve absolute equality, because it is not able to recognize the differences in income based on self-worth and productivity, basic for the progress of a society.
4- He opposes capitalism
Socialism arises in response to the social inequalities marked by the capitalist system , which is why it opposes the idea of the accumulation of goods and economic competition.
In pure capitalism, people are motivated to act in their own personal interest, while in the ideals of socialism people must first promote the common good before their own.
5- Abolition of social classes
In his theory, socialism aims to establish a classless society, so in authoritarian socialism, there is practically no class, that is, they all belong to the same category.
Since all the means of production are owned by the state, the capitalist class does not exist. However, in practice it can lead to the appearance of a dome where the rulers and their environment live with great privilege.
In this type of socialism, although there are private capitalists, their activity is generally controlled and regulated. They do not enjoy unrestricted freedom, but are under constant scrutiny and observation by the state.
In theory, socialism seeks to foster intellectual diversity, by establishing that everyone has the same rights. In this way, it cooperates so that each individual draws out their educational and disciplinary skills and knows their duties.
In practice, totalitarian socialism seeks for everyone to have the same ideology, opposing political and intellectual diversity.
7- Religious ideas
Some forms of socialism have often been atheistic in character, and many leading socialists have criticized the role of religion.
Other socialists have been Christians and have sustained considerable interaction between Christian and socialist ideas, which is why it has been claimed that the early Christian communities show certain traits of socialism.
Some of these traits are the celebration of common possessions, the rejection of conventional sexual customs and gender roles, the provision of a community education, among others, which could be considered similar to socialism.
8- Promotes the improvements of the lower strata
Its objective in principle was to raise the standard of living of those who are in the lower strata and the middle classes.
He wants to achieve these improvements by guaranteeing full employment, a high growth rate, the dignity of work and the absence of labor exploitation, the relatively equitable distribution of income and wealth, and the absence of waste associated with the capitalist system of production.
Yet in the face of these advantages, radical systems of socialism run the risk of leading to loss of efficiency and incentives for hard work, as well as self-initiative.
9- State Monopoly
Unlike other economies where there are multiple companies that generate the country’s income and there is competition in terms of the law of supply and demand, in pure socialism there is no competition, which means that the State is the only employer.
In authoritarian socialism, ownership of the means of mass production is social or collective, thus private property is completely eliminated.
According to this socialist approach, all lands, mines, mills, factories, as well as the system of finance and commerce, must be nationalized.
Likewise, the power to make economic decisions should be based on public authorities and not on individuals or private for-profit companies. Public ownership then assumes the existing private companies, municipal and regional companies, and cooperative companies.
Opponents of this type of socialism argue that state ownership of the means of production leads to inefficiency. They argue that without the motivation to earn more money, management, workers, and developers are less likely to go the extra mile to drive new ideas or products.
10- Basic needs covered
People living under a well-defined socialism are covered by a social safety net. Therefore, their basic needs are provided, giving priority to the lower and marginalized classes.
This is a great advantage and a great benefit. However, critics of socialism warn that there is a fine line between providing people with deserved and necessary basic needs and turning these benefits into a populist campaign.
These benefits can make the population think that the State is a kind of God and that without it it will not be able to survive, which in history has led to the permanence of authoritarian governments in power for a long time.
11- Setting the cost of products
In some socialist systems, the pricing process does not work freely, but under the control and regulation of the central planning authority.
There are administered prices that are set by the central planning authority. There are also the market prices at which consumer goods are sold, as well as the prices of account arrangements.
On these prices, managers decide about the production of consumer and investment goods, and also about the choice of production methods.
Critics of socialism believe that this is a wrong measure, because in many nations it has been responsible for shortages, the hidden commercialization of products, corruption and the rationing of food and basic products for the entire population.
The State intervenes continuously in social and economic activities and in the distribution of goods.
The argument is that in this way the fairness that is considered as ideal can be guaranteed. If socialism is arbitrary, the allocation of resources will be equally arbitrary.
13- Centralized objectives
The objectives may refer to aggregate demand, full employment, the satisfaction of community demand, the allocation of factors of production, the distribution of national income, the amount of capital accumulation, and economic development. These objectives are centralized and executed by the State.
14- It has different economic models
In some socialist economic models, worker cooperatives have primacy over production. Other socialist economic models allow individual ownership of the company and property. This will depend on the degree of radicality or flexibility of the model.
15- Communities are consulted
Social policy is decided in the communities. In theory, public decisions are made on the basis of consultations with the people themselves, seeking the direct participation of the community in the matters that affect it. This is not always achieved in practice.
16- Provide fewer incentives
Socialism may be considered a more compassionate system, but it has its limitations. One downside is that people have to try less and feel less connected to the fruits of their efforts.
With their basic needs already guaranteed, they have less incentive to innovate and increase their efficiency. As a result, the engines of economic growth are weaker.
17- It can become utopia
In theory, all are equal in socialism. However, in practice, hierarchies emerge and party officials on duty, together with well-connected individuals, are in a better position to receive favored assets.
Government planners as well as planning mechanisms are neither infallible nor incorruptible. In some socialist economies there are deficiencies, even in the most essential goods.
Because there is no free market to facilitate adjustments, the system cannot regulate itself, thus bureaucracy and corruption can arise.
Types of socialism
There are various “types” of socialism ranging from the most democratic to the most radical and authoritarian. On the one hand, some of its followers tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains power and economic influence, but others are instead in favor of the abolition of private enterprise and total control by the government entity.
Such is the case of some social democracies, which are based on socialist ideas but do not completely suppress some features of the free market. Its objective is to seek a more equitable distribution among the population, without excluding private companies.
These less radical systems seek to help people from the lower strata by giving them greater well-being, but private companies remain open having obligations such as paying taxes, developing social responsibility programs, giving fairer benefits to their employees, among other duties. .
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