The Rise of New Ideologies in the Nineteenth Century for AP European History (page 3)

based on 4 ratings
By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Utopian Socialism

Nineteenth-century socialism was the ideology that emphasized the collective over the individual and challenged the liberal's notion that competition was natural. Socialists sought to reorder society in ways that would end or minimize competition, foster cooperation, and allow the working classes to share in the wealth being produced by industrialization.

The earliest forms of socialism have come to be called utopian socialism for the way in which they envisioned, and sometimes tried to set up, ideal communities (or utopias) where work and its fruit were shared equitably. In the nineteenth century, there were three distinct forms of utopian socialism, described in the following sections.

Technocratic Socialism

This type of socialism envisioned a society run by technical experts who managed resources efficiently and in a way that was best for all. The most prominent nineteenth-century advocate of technocratic socialism was a French aristocrat, Henri Comte de Saint-Simon, who renounced his title during the French Revolution and spent his life championing the progress of technology and his vision of a society organized and run by scientifically trained managers or "technocrats."

Psychological Socialism

This type of socialism saw a conflict between the structure of society and the natural needs and tendencies of human beings. Its leading nineteenth-century advocate was Charles Fourier, who argued that the ideal society was one organized on a smaller, more human scale. He advocated the creation of self-sufficient communities, called phalansteries, of no more than 1,600 people, in which the inhabitants did work that suited them best.

Industrial Socialism

This type of socialism argued that it was possible to have a productive, profitable industrial enterprise without exploiting workers. Its leading advocate was a Scottish textile manufacturer, Robert Owen. Owen set out to prove his thesis by setting up industrial communities like the New Lanark cotton mill in Scotland and, later, a larger manufacturing community in New Harmony, Indiana, that paid higher wages and provided food, shelter, and clothing at reasonable prices.

Scientific Socialism and Communism

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the exploitation of European workers had grown more evident and the dreams of the utopian socialists seemed less plausible. In their place arose a form of socialism based on what its adherents claimed was a scientific analysis of society's workings. The most famous and influential of the self-proclaimed scientific socialists was the German revolutionary Karl Marx. In The Communist Manifesto (1848), a slim pamphlet distributed to workers throughout Europe, Marx and his collaborator Freidrich Engels argued that "all history is the history of class struggle." In the Manifesto, and later in the much larger Capital (vol. 1, 1867), Marx argued that a human being's relationship to the means of production gave him a social identity. In the industrial age of the nineteenth century, Marx argued, only two classes existed: the bourgeoisie, who controlled the means of production; and the proletariat, who sold their labor for wages. The key point in Marx's analysis was that the bourgeoisie exploited the proletariat because competition demanded it; if a factory owner chose to treat his workers more generously, then he would have to charge more for his goods and his competitors would drive him out of business.

Marx's analysis led him to adopt a position that came to be known as communism, which declared that the only way to end social exploitation was to abolish private property. If no one could claim to own the means of production, then there could be no distinction between owner and worker; all class distinctions would disappear and the workers would be free to distribute the benefits of production more equally.

Social Darwinism

The socialist notion that competition was unnatural was countered by yet another nineteenth-century ideology that came to be known as social Darwinism. In 1859, the British naturalist Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, which argued that all living things had descended from a few simple forms. In Origin, Darwin described a complex process in which biological inheritance, environment, and competition for resources combined over millions of years to produce the amazing diversity in living forms that exists in the world.

The social philosopher Herbert Spencer argued that Darwin's theory proved that competition was not only natural, but necessary for the progress of a society. Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" (a phrase adopted by Darwin in the sixth and final edition of Origin) and argued along liberal lines that government intervention in social issues interfered with natural selection and, therefore, with progress. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, social Darwinism was being used to argue that imperialism, the competition between nations for control of the globe, was a natural and necessary step in the evolution of the human species. Eugenics, the notion that a progressive, scientific nation should plan and manage the biological reproduction of its population as carefully as it planned and managed its economy, also flourished in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Rapid Review

In the nineteenth century, intellectuals articulated numerous ideologies in order to make sense of a rapidly changing world. By the end of the century, a thinking person could choose from or create combinations from a spectrum of ideologies that included and can be summarized as follows:

  • conservatism—championing tradition
  • liberalism—urging reform
  • Romanticism—encouraging the cultivation of sentiment and emotion
  • nationalism—preaching cultural unity
  • anarchism—scheming to bring down the state
  • socialism—trying to design a more equitable society
  • communism—working to abolish private property
  • social Darwinism—advocating the benefits of unfettered competition

The review questions for this study guide can be found at:

The Rise of New Ideologies in the Nineteenth Century Review Questions for AP European History

View Full Article
Add your own comment