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Socialism is a political, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production. It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems. Social ownership can be public, collective, cooperative, or of equity. While no single definition encapsulates the many types of socialism, social ownership is the one common element. The types of socialism vary based on the role of markets and planning in resource allocation, on the structure of management in organizations, and socialists disagree on whether government, particularly existing government, is the correct vehicle for change.

Socialist systems are divided into non-market and market forms. Non-market socialism substitutes factor markets and money with integrated economic planning and engineering or technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing a different economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws and dynamics than those of capitalism. A non-market socialist system eliminates the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system in capitalism. The socialist calculation debate, originated by the economic calculation problem, concerns the feasibility and methods of resource allocation for a planned socialist system. By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. Anarchism and libertarian socialism oppose the use of the state as a means to establish socialism, favouring decentralisation above all, whether to establish non-market socialism or market socialism.

Socialist politics has been both internationalist and nationalist in orientation; organised through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions and at other times independent and critical of them; and present in both industrialised and developing nations. Social democracy originated within the socialist movement, supporting economic and social interventions to promote social justice. While nominally retaining socialism as a long-term goal, since the post-war period it has come to embrace a Keynesian mixed economy within a predominantly developed capitalist market economy and liberal democratic polity that expands state intervention to include income redistribution, regulation and a welfare state. Economic democracy proposes a sort of market socialism, with more democratic control of companies, currencies, investments and natural resources.

The socialist political movement includes a set of political philosophies that originated in the revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late 18th century and out of concern for the social problems that were associated with capitalism. By the late 19th century, after the work of Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels, socialism had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership of the means of production. By the 1920s, communism and social democracy had become the two dominant political tendencies within the international socialist movement, with socialism itself becoming the most influential secular movement of the 20th century. Socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence on all continents, heading national governments in many countries around the world. Today, many socialists have also adopted the causes of other social movements such as environmentalism, feminism and progressivism.

While the emergence of the Soviet Union as the world's first nominally socialist state led to socialism's widespread association with the Soviet economic model, some economists and intellectuals argued that in practice the model functioned as a form of state capitalism or a non-planned administrative or command economy. Academics, political commentators and other scholars sometimes refer to Western Bloc countries which have been democratically governed by socialist parties such as Britain, France, Sweden and Western social-democracies in general as democratic socialist. ( Full article...)

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In Marxist theory, socialism, also called the socialist mode of production, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that supersede capitalism in the schema of historical materialism. The Marxist definition of socialism is a mode of production where the sole criterion for production is use-value and therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning, while distribution of economic output is based on the principle of to each according to his contribution. The social relations of socialism are characterized by the working class effectively owning the means of production and the means of their livelihood, either through cooperative enterprises or by public ownership or private artisanal tools and self-management, so that the social surplus accrues to the working class and society as a whole. This view is consistent with, and helped to inform, early conceptions of socialism where the law of value no longer directs economic activity, and thus monetary relations in the form of exchange-value, profit, interest and wage labor would not operate and apply to Marxist socialism.

The Marxian conception of socialism stands in contrast to other early conceptions of socialism, most notably early forms of market socialism based on classical economics such as mutualism and Ricardian socialism. Unlike the Marxian conception, these conceptions of socialism retained commodity exchange (markets) for labor and the means of production, seeking to perfect the market process. The Marxist idea of socialism was also heavily opposed to utopian socialism. Although Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote very little on socialism and neglected to provide any details on how it might be organized, numerous social scientists and neoclassical economists have used Marx's theory as a basis for developing their own models of socialist economic systems. The Marxist view of socialism served as a point of reference during the socialist calculation debate.

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Henri de Saint-simon portrait
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon (17 October 1760 – 19 May 1825) was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, positivism and the discipline of sociology. He was born an aristocrat; the political ideologies he adopted in later life, however, do not fall into the aristocratic category.

In opposition to the feudal and military system he advocated a form of state-technocratic socialism, an arrangement where industrialists would lead society and found a national community based upon cooperation and technological progress, which would be capable of eliminating poverty of the lower classes. In place of the church, he felt the direction of society should fall to the men of science. Men who are fitted to organize society for productive labour are entitled to rule it.

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