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Socialism and Modernity

Socialism and Modernity

Peter Beilharz
Series: Contradictions
Volume: 24
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Socialism and Modernity
    Book Description:

    This first collection of Peter Beilharz’s highly influential thought traces the themes and problems, manifestations, and trajectories of socialism and modernity as they connect and shift over a twenty-year period. Woven throughout Beilharz’s analysis is the urgent question of modern utopia: how do we imagine freedom and equality in modernity?

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7044-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: From Socialism to Modernity, via Americanism
    (pp. ix-xx)

    Over my lifetime the discourse of radicalism has shifted from socialism to modernity, from marxism to critical theory or whatever comes after. This volume gathers essays that cover a twenty-year span. Across that period there has been a significant historical shift and a conceptual semantic shift that reflects it. Twenty years ago there was still a Soviet world system; twenty years ago marxism was still a significant global influence, with or without reference to communism. The essays here track these shifts from socialism to modernity-talk or to what I called “postmodern socialism” in a book with this title published in...

  5. One Socialism: Modern Hopes, Postmodern Shadows
    (pp. 1-16)

    Today, socialism may seem to be part of the past; perhaps this is necessarily so. To begin to consider the arguments involved across various socialisms as social theory already means to begin to break up these firm, if imaginary, distinctions between past, present, and future. For if the socialist traditions often think back, they also necessarily reach forward. Socialism is one central trend in the critique of modernity, for socialism rests on the image of modernity as it is and as it might be. Its main strength has been its capacity to call out the critique of the present by...

  6. Two Socialism by the Back Door
    (pp. 17-26)

    “The story is one of the oldest forms of communication. It does not aim at transmitting the pure in-itself of the event, but anchors the event in the life of the person reporting, in order to pass it on as experience to those listening.” Thus said Walter Benjamin.¹ Or, as the maxim sets it,Geschichte ist Geschichte—history is stories. These things seem to have some resonance for me, whether because they are German, I cannot say. But my own consistent sense is that we all have stories to tell, that we live in history, and that history is marked...

  7. Three The Life and Times of Social Democracy
    (pp. 27-41)

    Social democracy remains a major political current of modernity. Contrary to postmodernists and to certain marxists, modernity is notallabout flux. We remain firmly stuck within modernity, and hence within social democracy. Recent events in Eastern Europe would seem to confirm rather than to deny this. Communism now is off the agenda; socialism remains on it. Or has socialism had its day as well? As C. B. Macpherson suggests in hisLife and Times of Liberal Democracy, which I take here as my frame, the “life and times” approach is by nature suggestive of an obituary. Ideas, however, do...

  8. Four The Fabian Imagination
    (pp. 42-49)

    Why discuss Fabianism today? If socialism is over, the problems to which it was a response persist. Socialisms are traditions, and we are all, still, creatures of tradition. Ours, of course, is a moment in world history when to speak of socialism is to risk looking distinctly dated, if not downright unfashionable. So be it. For ours is also a moment when melancholy and misery are more widespread than in recent memory, when paid work is increasingly casualized and a dual labor market calls up, once again, images of the underworld that holds up the world we inhabit, where peoples...

  9. Five The Australian Left: Beyond Laborism?
    (pp. 50-71)

    A decade ago it was popular to argue that the two major parties in Australia were no more different than Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. This kind of thinking, if it can be so called, fed on a traditional refusal among those on the Australian left to take seriously the problem of laborism. This refusal has now, in the 1980s, returned with a vengeance, as farce. Many on the left are now subservient to the very Labor Party they had earlier derided. Labor itself has developed in particular corporatist directions. Many on the left have seized on these developments as...

  10. Six Australian Laborism, Social Democracy, and Social Justice
    (pp. 72-86)

    The experience of the Australian labor movement, from the outside, has always seemed different from labor movements elsewhere. Since its inception, Australian labor has been happy to promote the image of its own exceptionalism. From its earlier strengths through its tepid, near-British postwar period and the real excitement—and disappointment—provided by the Whitlam years, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) arrived in the 1980s as a force that has indeed been exceptional.¹ Where the new right has taken distinctly traditional forms across the Atlantic, the current ALP government of Robert Hawke has managed the apparently impossible, coalescing into something like...

  11. Seven The End of Australian Communism
    (pp. 87-94)

    In 1952 a young man named Frank Hardy published his second major book. Still surrounded by the controversy overPower without Glory, he titled his new ventureJourney into the Future. It was, of course, a defense of the workers’ paradise. Hardy claimed that most of the stories told about the Soviet experience were bourgeois lies, and probably they were; his own response, to replace them with “proletarian” lies, offered no great improvement.

    Hardy’s motif was that of so much writing in this now dead genre—Lincoln Steffens’s “I have seen the future and it works!” But his book was...

  12. Eight Between Totalitarianism and Postmodernity
    (pp. 95-106)

    What is between totalitarianism and postmodernity, and what comes after? The two terms refer to significant markers or symbols of our times, even if they are of different types. From most perspectives, the collapse of communism between 1989 and 1991 had a radical effect on Western culture. For better or worse, marxism and communism have been combined, or at least associated, both in the popular imagination and in scholarship. Yet, as Derrida has written, Marx also acts as a specter, the alter ego of a capitalist or industrial civilization ever ill at ease with itself.¹ Postmodernity, or postmodernism, however, is...

  13. Nine Socialism after Communism: Liberalism?
    (pp. 107-115)

    What is left of socialism after the collapse of communism? That seems obvious: liberalism. Certainly there are strong indications of this, as in the redefinition of socialism as “democracy” or “civil society.” If we look at social democracy, its own politics were and are often indistinguishable from liberalism: notions of rights, social justice, and citizenship draw together social liberalism and social democracy whether we talk of Eduard Bernstein and Leonard Hobhouse or of the later Keynesian consensus. Although all this seems neat enough, what it raises, among other things, is the question of the status of liberalism. A more precise...

  14. Ten Socialism in Europe—after the Fall
    (pp. 116-141)

    One hundred years of socialism … these words, which make up the title of Donald Sassoon’s recent book,¹ resonate, as if spoken by a lonely, Magrittelike voice in the solitude of an empty room. Not a hundred years of socialism, or a hundred years of struggle, but one hundred years of socialism, the one and yet the many expressing somehow in minimal eloquence the grandeur and twilight of this great movement and ideology, this extraordinary phenomenon that changed everything and then, seemingly, disappeared into the cultures from whence it emerged. How could all this be possible? What is and was...

  15. Eleven Intellectuals and Utopians
    (pp. 142-166)

    Sociology, the textbooks tell us, depends on self-reflexivity; for we sociologists seem to have a characteristic knack of knowing what is wrong in what other people do, but never in what we do. Zygmunt Bauman’s sociology is persistently self-reflexive; his view is that we, too, are part of the problem, indeed that we as intellectuals or legislators aspirant have been a big part of the problem of modernity. Our attraction to the modern possibility of change sometimes leads us to value change over everything else; yet we cannot deny, either, that the world needs changing, even if it is less...

  16. Twelve Modernity and Communism: Zygmunt Bauman and the Other Totalitarianism
    (pp. 167-178)

    Zygmunt Bauman’s most influential work is without doubtModernity and the Holocaust.¹ There is no companion in his work toModernity and the Holocaust, noModernity and Communism, or perhaps it should beCommunism and Modernity. For his life’s commitment, in political terms, was to the left, to socialism, to utopia, or, differently, to Polish reconstruction after the devastation of the war. Communism survives, as a ghost, for it ghosts us all, those on the left or those who came from it. In my bookZygmunt Bauman: Dialectic of Modernity,² I have suggested that there is a samizdat text on...

  17. Thirteen Looking Back: Marx and Bellamy
    (pp. 179-188)

    No two images of socialism or utopia were more influential a century ago than those of Karl Marx and Edward Bellamy. Marx and Friedrich Engels famously denied the utopian dimension of their own project; Bellamy celebrated it, at least in the formal sense. Bellamy’s utopia was as public as Marx’s was practically invisible. Marx behaved as though utopianism were the preparatory phase of modern socialism; Bellamy embraced the form, both literally and as literature. The extent of the influence of Bellamy’sLooking Backwardis legendary: it was the second-biggest-selling work of fiction in the United States in the nineteenth century....

  18. Fourteen Socialism and America
    (pp. 189-200)

    Why is there no socialism in the United States? Werner Sombart’s question is famous; less well known is the answer. First published in theArchiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitikin 1905, the famous if clichéd answer had to do with the American working class’s selling out socialism for reefs of roast beef and mountains of apple pie. Sombart’s elongated answer was both more sophisticated and more interesting than this. C. T. Husbands, who edited the English version of the book that followed the essay, made a list, for the longer answer of course was multivariate. There were many reasons. First,...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 201-220)
  20. Publication History
    (pp. 221-222)
  21. Index
    (pp. 223-226)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)