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The basis of socialism - historic

Webb, Sidney (1889) The basis of socialism - historic. In: Fabian essays in socialism. Fabian Society, London, pp. 30-61.

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Abstract

In discussing the historic groundwork of Socialism, it is worth remembering that no special claim is made for Socialism in the assertion that it possesses a basis in history. Just as every human being has an ancestry, unknown to him though it may be; so every idea, every incident, every movement has in the past its own long chain of causes, without which it could not have been. Formerly we were glad to let the dead bury their dead: nowadays we turn lovingly to the records, whether of persons or things; and we busy ourselves willingly among origins, even without conscious utilitarian end. We are no longer proud of having ancestors, since every one has them; but we are more than ever interested in our ancestors, now that we find in them the fragments which compose our very selves. The historic ancestry of the English social organization during the present century stands witness to the irresistible momentum of the ideas which Socialism denotes. The record of the century in English social history begins with the trial and hopeless failure of an almost complete industrial individualism, in which, however, unrestrained private ownership of land and capital was accompanied by subjection to a political oligarchy. So little element of permanence was there in this individualistic order that, with the progress of political emancipation, private ownership of the means of production has been, in one direction or another, successively regulated, limited and superseded, until it may now fairly be claimed that the Socialist philosophy of to-day is but the conscious and explicit assertion of principles of social organization which have been already in great part unconsciously adopted. The economic history of the century is an almost continuous record of the progress of Socialism. - Introductory paragraph.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: The original full text is available at the archive.org link. The full text of the 1891 American edition of the 1889 first edition is available at the econlib.org link above. 2nd ed. 1908; 3rd ed. 1920; 4th ed. 1931; 5th ed. (60th Jubilee ed.) 1948. The 4th and 5th eds. were entitled just Fabian Essays.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2011 15:54
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2017 15:24
URI: http://webbs.library.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/254

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