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Socialism: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – September 22, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


`"well written and enjoyable to read."' Giles Bentley, Socialist Review

About the Author

Michael Newman is Director of the London European Research Center Faculty of Humanities and Teacher Education at the University of North London. He is the author of Democracy, Sovereignty and the European Union, Harold Laski--A Political Biography, and Socialism and European Unity.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.7 x 4.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By calmly on March 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An outstanding introduction and a meaty one too. Now that I've read three books in the "very short introduction" series, it has been a pleasant surprise to see how formidable these book are.

References, suggestions for further reading and a 9 page index are included.

Newman does not hide the problems that socialists have had but neither does he fail to recognize the ways in which they might help.

The analyses of Cuban communism and Swedish social democracy were illuminating. Socialism may not have dominated, but it has not always been the failure that it is made out to be.

Newman claims "What can be maintained with confidence is that capitalism will not be able to resolve the problems and injustices that it causes...and that socialist arguments remain relevant". He notes the challenge, beyond whatever problems socialists themselves have in running an economy, that "At present, Washington is opposed to any international regimes that might limit its autonomy and is willing to use its power to thwart their development."

Unlike the literature I've read of many socialist parties, which tend to be simplistic and shallow in analysis, Newman does manage in this "very short introduction" multi-dimensional explorations of the challenges facing socialism. He continues to value the role of trade unions, the greens and feminists. The socialist effort is fragmented and it is not clear in what ways it can be effective. Like many socialists, Newman's moral concerns seem clear but Newman's openness and flexibility seems all the more valuable at a time when many socialist groups seem dogmatic and rigid.

Newman's "very short introduction" seems one of the best statements on what Socialism today has to offer.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on July 30, 2008
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Author Michael Newman acknowledges at the beginning of his Very Short Introduction that writing a "very short introduction" to socialism is a daunting task. So he decides that, after a chapter-length introductory discussion of "Socialist Traditions," the wisest approach would be to examine representative periods and movements. Consequently, Chapter 2 focuses on Cuban communism and Swedish social democracy and Chapter 3 on feminist socialism and eco-socialism. Chapter 4 is a forecast of what socialism must do to retain vitality into the future.

For Newman, the hallmark of socialism is that it offers a social and political alternative to capitalism based on the values of equality and cooperation between humans. Socialism of course adapts itself to historical and cultural contexts, but these are its necessary conditions. When socialism perverts into the state domination displayed by the Soviet Union or the liberal capitalism which the British Labor Party has embraced, it's no longer socialism.

While I appreciate Newman's need to be selective in his discussion of socialism, I have to admit that I found his second chapter utterly tedious. The facts about Cuban communism are so well known that much of what he says about it is all too familiar. The history of Sweden's social democracy is so unexciting that it takes a great deal of patience to get through Newman's discussion.

On the other hand, his discussion of the "New Left" infusions of feminism and environmentalism/ecologism is potentially exciting, but too abbreviated to do more than whet the reader's appetite (which, I suppose, is a good thing).
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sareinhart on March 4, 2010
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I got this book because I want to know more about socialism. The problem I faced is that socialism is such a big topic that I didn't even know where to begin. I saw this "Short Introduction" and thought it seemed like a perfect introduction to frame up future studies. This book accomplished EXACTLY that. I am very pleased. The author is obviously well informed on the topic and is a good writer. I found it to be an enjoyable read. The author is obviously a committed socialist. I was glad to see that, too. I have no use for a book introducing a topic with the author is trying to convince me that the toping being introduced is wrong.

The book starts out with the early socialists, covers Marx, the Soviet revolution, Trotsky and the whole socialist freak show up to the present day. It contains speculation on socialism's next move and a look to the future.

That being said, after finishing the book I did check the author out on the internet because the last few pages basically consist of 'socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried' and 'no one wants us'. It reminded me of stuff I'VE said about socialism. I wondered if he was a really a capitalist pretending to be a socialist. But, no he's an HONEST socialist and believes SO thoroughly in the idea of socialism that despite ALL the evidence we need to keep trying. I thought that was the perfect ending.

If you want to understand socialism - and not waste a lot of time doing it-this is the book for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marvin D. Pipher on March 28, 2012
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Rank-and-file Socialists who read this book will likely be gratified to find that there are many different types of victims suffering oppression in Capitalist societies and that; indeed, the Capitalist glass is half empty. Conservative readers, neo-Liberals, who approach this book with little concrete knowledge of socialist theory, on the other hand, will likely remain cheerfully convinced that the Capitalist glass is already half full but; in all probability, will end up concerned for their nation upon discovering that for the past hundred and fifty years there has been a relentless effort by socialists to destroy everything they believe in. Moderates, if they read the book at all, will likely be persuaded by this author that socialism is the only way to go, since that is essentially what this book is all about. What one takes from the book, then, will likely depend on what one brings to it.

What did I take from it? Quite a few things: for one, a greater respect for Karl Marx. He certainly was a great theoretician who was able to identify a significant flaw in the Capitalist system but, as near as I can tell, was unable to formulate a better one. I was also surprised to learn that `Utopianism' and `Anarchism,' along with `Marxism' were the three original `forms' of Socialism and that more recently `Feminism' and `Green Socialism', among other factions have joined forces. I was also surprised to learn that the Hippie flower-children of the 1960s were essentially the manifestation of the much earlier Utopian theory and that Anarchism is the ultimate form of Socialism, since it offers complete equality with no leadership.
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