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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 4th edition (September 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

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References, suggestions for further reading and a 9 page index are included.
Michael Newman has written an excellent introduction to socialism, especially the varieties of socialism expressed in the 20th and, so far, 21st centuries.
Dana Garrett
This one, like all of the ones I have read, was well written, informative, interesting, and easy to read and understand.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 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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22 of 27 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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15 of 19 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 Melissa McHugh on June 5, 2012
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I chose this book to read because I wanted to understand socialism better in order to update my honors thesis as to my subject's contributions to early socialist theory in the nineteenth century. I thought this book (I hoped anyway) might fulfill its purpose as an introduction to a subject that is often verboten in US political discourse. As a history student, I obviously understand that socialism does not equal communism and since beginning my study of nineteenth century political thought, I don't think I had fully appreciated how diverse and rich the history of socialist political thought.

This book fulfilled my objectives and then some. Newman divided his study into four chapters, the first of which 'Socialist Traditions' addressed most of my questions as to the birth of socialist theory and its trajectory throughout the nineteenth century until the Russian revolution when it began inextricably intertwined with the Soviet interpretation. In this forty-page chapter, he addressed utopian socialists like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, the modern socialists Marx and Engels and then the turn to traditional socialism in the late nineteenth century as it became practical governmental theory in countries like Britain and Germany under the auspices of the Labor and SPD parties. There was so much more in this chapter that was very useful to me and I felt like he had answered all of my questions and given me more areas to pursue, the objective of any well-written introduction.

The next two chapters consisted of examples illustrating socialism in the twentieth century.
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