(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Socialism)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Socialism)

Socialism in a wider sense is used to describe all those thought systems which believe in the social ownership of means of production. Therefore in this sense there are various forms of socialism like utopian socialism, scientific socialism or Marxism and democratic socialism.

But, socialism word is used in many other sense also. In the words of C.E.M. Zoad “Socialism is hat which has lost its shape because everybody wears it.”

According to Lenin – Socialism means dictatorship of proletariat whereas communism is ideal communist society.

According to some philosophers, Socialism is a trend or perspective whereas Marsixm is an ideology.

But today, most of philosophers use the word socialism to denote democratic socialism whereas Marxism denotes scientific socialism. Marsixm and communism 2 terms used interchangeably but Lenin considered ideal communist society for word communism.

Democratic socialism is the fusion of Marxism and democracy. In democratic socialism goals of socialism like equality, justice are accepted but these goals are to be attained through democratic means.

Evolutionary socialism is also sometimes used similar to democratic socialism.

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Main Principles of Democratic Socialism

(Accepts end – rejects means).

1) Democratic socialism believes in evolutionary change therefore it supports gradual and reformative change. But, Marxism supports revolutionary change.

2) They also differs as far as means of change are concerned Democratic socialism supports periodic elections, planning, progressive parliamentary legislature. But Marxism supports violent change.

3) Democratic socialism and Marxism differ regarding nature of state. According to Marxism, state is a class instrument but democratic socialism considers state as positive notion. According to democratic socialism state is an important means to bring social justice in the society.

4) They also differ on the issue of class struggle. According to Marxism class struggle is the main fact of society because interest of the classes are antagonistic but democratic socialism does not support class struggle. According to democratic socialist, interest of different can be reconcile hence class harmony is possible.

5) Marxism believes in economic determinism according to which, substructure determines superstructure, therefore economic power is the only source of power. But democratic socialism does not believe in economic determinism though it considers economic source as important but it is not the only source of power.

6) They also differ in their views of nationalism. According to Marxism, nationalism is a bourgeois concept which fulfills class interest of capitalist Marx believed that nationalism is against notion of class struggle.
But democratic socialism supports nationalism and hence national development.

7) Their views also differ on religion. Marx compared religion with opium of people but democratic socialism does not oppose religion. Instead it supports religious freedom of individual to accept god in any form.


1) Democratic socialism has been attacked by both Marxist and liberals.

According to Marxist, democratic socialism is form of religionism in which Marxism has been amended therefore it has sacrificed revolutionary gene of Marxism. It is unable to see true nature of capitalism. Capitalism can not be reformed, it can only be replaced.

2) According to liberals, democratic socialism like Marxism gives more importance to collectivity in comparison to individual therefore freedom of individual may be curtailed. It gives much emphasis on state as means of social change but increase in power of state practically means enhancement of powers of administration.

3) It gives much emphasis to planning but planning has its own short coming. It kills private initiative.

But, still democratic socialism is the most important of socialism today the relevance of Marxism is questioned today & dictatorship of proletariat in USSR and China are criticized but democratic socialism is still important in many European countries also.

The main reason why democratic socialism has become more relevant than Marxism because it become practical version of Marxism. It accepts the merit of both capitalist and Marxism.

Fabian Socialism

Fabian Socialism has been supported by G.B. Shaw, Sydney Webb.

1) Fabianism supports peaceful change.
2) It supports class harmony instead of struggle
3) It emphasizes equality of opportunities
4) It supports equality of men and women
5) Also emphasizes on universal education to fulfill goal of socialism.

Guild Socialism

Supporter – G.D.H. Cole – It emphasizes on the role of ‘Guild’ Guild has been defined as a group of people in same profession to take care of their common interest.

Guild socialism accepts the main tenets of democratic socialism like class harmony peaceful change etc.

But they formulate some new things also.

  • They criticize wage system instead of wage system they support distribution based on need.
  • They also support functional representation. (In India based on territorial representation).

Functional representation means people pursuing one profession should be represented through those who belong to same profession (former can only understand problem of farmer).

Parliamentary Socialism

It was developed by labour party of Britain.

British democracy, function on the theory of parliamentary sovereignty. Therefore, parliamentary socialism believes that parliament will become means to bring socialism through its progressive legislation parliament will help working class. It also accepts principle of democratic socialism.

Revisionary Socialism

Principles of revisionism formed by leader of social democratic party of Germany. Edward Bernstein. It opposes class struggle, violence, economic determinism. It accepts principle of democratic socialism. (Marxist theory 1st revised by).


George Sorel formulated principles of syndicalism. Technically it can not be defined as a version of democratic socialism as it supports violence and abolition of state. Emphasizes role of syndicate (trade union). It wants to take away powers of state these powers of state should be assigned to syndicate.

They support direct action like general strike and rampage in industry. It wants to abolish the state therefore sometimes it is described as version of anarchism.

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