Socialism is Force. That is All
the challenge is to develop a society with a minimum of force
There are all kinds of socialism. And over at Quillette, writer Seamus Flaherty, writer of Marx, Engels and Modern British Socialism, is cataloging all the various kinds of right-wing socialism.
Blue Labour. Red Tory. Tory socialism. Tory anarchism. Tory communism. There is no shortage of apparent oxymorons tying conservatism to left-wing radicalism.
But is this fair? Some writers think so, and and identified “Henry Hyndman, Joseph Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin, and Harold Macmillan as Tory socialists, although they did not use the term themselves.”
Of course, it all depends on how you define socialism. Flaherty uses the definition of Michael Freeden in Ideologies and Political Theory.
Socialism, on the other hand, is more straightforward. According to Freeden, it contains five core concepts: “the constitutive nature of the human relationship”—i.e., the fundamental importance of human ties—“human welfare as a desirable objective, human nature as active, equality, and history as the arena of (ultimately) beneficial change.” On its periphery are concepts such as democracy, collective ownership or control of the means of production and exchange, class, trade unionism, efficiency, and liberty.
Yes. But what I understand about socialism is that it is always about using government as the center of humanity; socialist thinkers are always proposing some plan of political supremacy. This, I believe, is a monstrous error. Government and the arena of force should be a small area, dealing with problems of invaders and criminals, not with problems of ordinary life. I would say that when socialists — or anyone in politics — talk about “the human relationship… human ties… human nature… equality… collective ownership or control” they are talking about government and force. You are talking about the educated class formulating ideas about the best, most just, most equal society. And then designing and implementing a plan that implements those ideas through force. Because government is force.
As I keep saying, the whole point of social animals is that the social animals interact most of the time in non-violent, non-forceful ways. The reason for social interaction and not force is the simple fact that force is expensive and provokes anger and animosity and battle and death. So successful social animals devise ways of resolving their differences in society short of the use of force, through hierarchy, trust, exchange, love, affection, and kindness.
In the context of the breakup of feudalism, we seem have the end of a whole culture of informal trust, hierarchy, and informal rights e.g., in “common land” in the context of a society in which food production is front and center. The question was, and is, what replaces the informal social arrangements of feudal society.
I would say that the challenge is to replace the feudal social relationship with new hierarchies, new relationships of trust, and new kinds of reciprocal obligations, and that all those arrangements should be, as far as possible, outside the regime of force.
I think the problem with our socialist friends is that they cannot imagine the care of the poor, the status of the employee, the interactions of the sexes without a regime of powerful political force. They cannot imagine the resolution of such questions without some political hierarch in charge
I think that the notions of “conservatism” and “socialism” and “anarchism” and the other common definitions of political orientation miss the point. The question is how to invent social constructions that enable the social arrangements of humans in our current age, given the remarkable changes in technology, from farming to transportation, and the availability of non-human energy, that have utterly transformed human society in the last 500 years.
Only, of course, we men and women are still programmed by our genes almost exactly as we were thousands of years ago, and our instinctive culture is a lot closer to the culture of 500 years ago than we like to admit.
And so, I say, we need to be a lot less certain that we — as opposed to they — have the answer to the problems of social interaction and social “problems.” And if we admit that then we are inclined to be a lot less motivated to impose our ideas on other people.