Brief Overview

The term “socialism” is difficult to define because it is associated with a complex body of ideas which have developed in different places by different people over the past two centuries (Andreucci 2001).

Formal Definition

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary provides the following definition of socialism (in Barber 2004): noun 1 a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribution, and exchange. 2 policy or practice based on this theory. 3 (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

Detailed Description

“Confusion about the meaning of the term is compounded because several quite different sets of theories have been called ‘socialism’ and … not all writers are in the habit of explaining clearly which of these theories, social movements, or states of society they have in mind when they attack or defend it.” (Lachs 1967, p. 75). For the purpose of greater clarity various qualifiers have been added so that one could discuss, for example utopian socialism, state socialism or market socialism (Thomas 2001). Often, socialism is associated with communism, e.g., the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was a communist country. It is interesting to note, however, that there were also socialists opposed to communism (op. cit.). In education, socialist ideologies have been linked with adult education where socialist countries have placed a high priority on eradicating illiteracy and educating working people (Khoi, 1985). Elsewhere, Youngman (1986, p. 240) formulated “…an approach to teaching and learning of adults consonant with socialist politics.”

Recommended Reading

Andreucci, F. (2001). Socialism: Historical aspects. In Neil J. Smelser, & Paul B. Baltes (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (pp. 14488-14492). Oxford: Pergamon (retrieved online 23 Nov. 2008). Barber, K. (Ed.). (2004). Canadian oxford dictionary (2nd ed.). Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press. Khoi, L. T. (1985). Socialist Ideologies and Adult Education. In Husén T., Postlethwaite T. N. (Eds.) (1st ed.), The international encyclopedia of education : Research and studies (v. 8, p. 4662-4664). New York: Pergamon. Lachs, J. (1967). Marxist philosophy : A bibliographical guide. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Thomas, P. (2001). Socialism. In Neil J. Smelser, & Paul B. Baltes (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (pp. 14485-14488). Oxford: Pergamon. Retrieved online 23 November 2008. Youngman, F. (1986). Adult education and socialist pedagogy. Dover, N.H.: Croom Helm.

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