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The Free Dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) defines Socialism as:
1. Any of various theories or systems of social
organization in which the means of producing and
distributing goods is owned collectively or by a
centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
2. The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate
between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved.

Even though this definition touches on the necessary areas of concern for socialism, it doesn’t really give a good indication of the true intention of the ideology.

Socialism may, in the past, have intended to put the ownership of the ‘means of production’ (industry/manufacturing) in the hands of the labourers (or those doing the manufacturing). Throughout the industrialisation of Western Society the labour force was continuously being underpaid and over-worked, as the ‘lower-class’ has been since the birth of hierarcial order in society, and Marxist ideology looked to save them through the communist route; this presented a problem only because no-one has an idea of what ‘communism’ really is: “the transitional period between Private Business/Governmental Rule to Publicly Owned/No-Government Rule. Understanding this was crucial to the success of communism, but as Stalin and Mao showed us the absolute corruption of power remains the single biggest threat to this.

The only means by which we would be able to make any governmental/economic/social system work is to remove exactly those elements which allowed the absolute dictatorship of previous communist states. This is another concern I have about the above definition; there is no ‘dictation’ or ‘government ownership’ in true socialism (please see discussion on communism/socialism for information about the interaction between these two ideologies), nor in communism. The purpose of the socialist principle is to restructure the means by which society is ‘managed’ by whichever government institution is in power.

The idea here is not to remove private ownership from the economic spectrum (that would make it collapse completely) or to revoke government’s role in a nation/country; the goal I think is to ensure that the most basic needs of individuals are addressed from a governmental perspective (water, sanitation, etc) and to ensure privately owned business is forcerd to deliver quality products or services at a price relevant to its value. So basically it’s a political and economic system that is orientated towards delivering quality service to the masses (the proletariat) FIRSTLY and profits to owners and share-holders (the burgoise) SECONDLY.

An extension of the ideology is also to ensure no individuals/businesses/organisations can hide behind laws that protect industries no matter how unethically they act, and hold these individuals/organisations/businesses accountable for their actions.

Socialism remains a very ‘broad’ term and this definition is my own understanding of socialism in a (elongated) nut-shell. The purpose of this forum is to be a platform to discuss the definition for its relevance in the 21st century, please feel free to expand on it.

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