Failure of Socialism in the United States

Topics: Capitalism, Socialism, Sociology Pages: 11 (3660 words) Published: December 17, 2012
The purpose of this essay is to examine the reasons for the failure of socialism in the United States. The history of socialism in the United States will be presented and examples of its failures will be given. Next, a series of theories as to why socialism has failed in the United States will be given, and finally, the theories will be applied to discover whether they are valid or not in explaining why socialism has been unsuccessful in the United States. Introduction

Socialism has been prevalent as a world system for many decades now but has failed to materialize in the United States. What is striking about this is not only our contempt for social and communal policies but our obvious hatred and distrust for those who do use social and communal policies around the world. It goes so deep that we would fight wars against those who consider themselves communist or socialist. Not only are U.S. policies against a more socialist system they are currently disintegrating those social welfare programs in place right now. (Burke 1997: 400-407) To understand these issues we must understand the meanings of these various systems. Socialism is defined as a system based on public ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth. (Marrium-Webster 2005) This is not to be confused with communism, which will also be addressed in the coming paragraphs. Communism is an economic or political system based on the sharing of all work and property by the whole community. (Marrium-Webster 2005) However, unlike socialism the means of production are owned by the government not the society as a whole. The United States has always been a capitalist country with some socialist policies. Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and controlled and it is characterized by competition and the profit motive. (Marrium-Webster 2005) However, the socialist policies, mentioned above, have generally benefited the majority of the population. So why has socialism not been broadened and implemented in the U.S.? The first idea is that the Protestant work ethic, first postulated by Max Weber has had a significant role in shaping our values and ideologies about our work. The second theory presented is a theory brought forward by Edward Alsworth Ross. It is a functionalist theory dealing with social control. The final theory is that we in the United States are intensely individualistic. William I. Thomas brings up individualism when he speaks about the definition of a situation. Literature Review of Contemporary Socio-cultural Phenomenon

The issue of why Socialism and Communism have not taken hold in the United States has been studied for years and has been written about in many volumes of literature. There are many examples of its failure throughout history. The first example of socialisms rise and eventual failure in the United States is failure of the American Socialist Party (ASP). Lipset and Marks attribute the fall of the American Socialist Party on its position during World War I, because the party refused to endorse the slaughter taking place in Europe. They write, The sectarian character of the Socialist Party was acutely demonstrated by its response to World War I and the Russian Revolution. Before 1914, along with other socialist parties, the American Socialists opposed foreign wars as imperialist conflicts fought on behalf of capitalist interests. Yet socialists in the European democracies engaged in the war soon abandoned their commitment to internationalism and supported their government’s war effort. (Lipset 2001: 179) The American Socialists were upset by this betrayal and condemned their comrades in the nations who went along with war mobilization. Opposition to the war became a rallying call for the American Socialist Party. Its 1914 campaign slogan was ‘Every socialist ballot is protest against war.’”(Lipset 2001: 184) This in turn caused...
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