History of Political Thought

Socialist Thought from the French Revolution to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The course will centre on the principal European conceptions of Socialism between 1789 and 1989. Its first part will be dedicated to some of the most important Socialist thinkers of the Nineteenth Century (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, Proudhon, Lassalle, Marx, Bakunin, and the Fabians), while the second part will focus on the analysis of the main Marxist controversies and Socialist political experiences of the Twentieth Century (especially the Bernstein Debate of the Second International, and the so-called “actually existing socialism” in Soviet Union expressed in the works of Lenin and Stalin).

Goal of the course is to examine the characteristics and distinguishing features of the varied Socialisms articulated by the authors above. The selection of readings will focus on the writings in which these thinkers developed their theories of how a Socialist society should be economically and politically organized.

Special attention will be dedicated to Marx’s Socialism and to his critique of other Socialisms, including Anarchism. Though he never composed a single text specifically on Socialism and post-capitalist society, through his critique of capitalism Marx pointed to some of the key social features and relations of production in the “society of free producers” which would replace the capitalist social formation. The course will explore the originality of Marx’s theories in comparison with those of his socialist predecessors, as well as the differences between his ideas and the historical record of “actually existing Socialism”.

The last class will review the course and examine the most relevant contemporary Socialist theoretical and political interventions (such as those offered by Latin American socialist governments, the European Communist parties, the Socialist International, the so-called ‘Socialism of the XXI Century’, and the Alter-globalization movement).


York University

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AP/POLS 4010 3.0 M (W)