Society and the Individual under Socialism
Socialism means a change in people and in society.
The fundamental change in the system of ownership has to mean a fundamental change in many other aspects of life and human behaviour. This is due to the fact that the change in ownership requires not simply an institutional change but also a fundamental change in people and in their relationships. Workers working in free association with each other have to be very different from wage workers under capitalism.
And these changes in people and relationships can't be confined to the economic sphere. It has to effect other aspects of life. You can't have change in one without the other.
You are not going to be concerned about the common good in production if you don't give a damn about it in other areas of life. If you are fully developing your abilities as a worker you are not going to revert to being a disempowered numbskulls when you knock off work for the day. Nor do you revert to being an embittered arse-hole after a day of working in a cooperative mutually regarding fashion.
Because people have the ability and the opportunity to be full players in production they also have the ability and the opportunity to be full players in society as a whole - in other words in the cultural, intellectual and political life of society. This doesn't mean that you have to be a Leonardo da Vinci who knows all there is to be know about everything. What it means is that you are involved in activities across the spectrum of human endeavour. Most things are within your range and accessible to you. It also means that society is no longer divided into educated and uneducated.
And just as people have healthy and cooperative relations with their co-workers, they have healthy and cooperative relations with others generally. The change in ownership will affect people and their relations with each other in a number of ways:
- The work place is a no longer a dog eat dog environment where you win at the expense of others. It is about everyone winning through cooperation. So it is no longer about beating others to a promotion, making someone else cop the wrap, screwing the customer or getting your pound of flesh from employees or subordinates. This cooperative behavior will obviously transfer across to other areas of life. Also you no longer have victims of abuse in the workplace having their relations with people outside the workplace tainted by negatives feelings such as bitterness, rage and humiliation.
- There are no longer inferiors and superiors. So you are not looking down on anyone and no one is looking down on you.
- Full participation in production means you have your act together. You have better social and communication skills and more confidence and you feel better about yourself. This all leads to better behaviour towards other people. It also means that you don't lie back and let yourself be a victim of other people's oppressive behaviour.
- A diverse and challenging range of activities in economic and other spheres of life means more diverse and deeper relationships with other people. In other words, sharing interesting and challenging activities is the basis for strong bonds between people.
- Having work that is gratifying rather than irksome has an overall positive impact on how people behave.
- Children are raised by healthy and capable adults. This means that your behaviour and your relations with others gets off to a good start. Also your intellectual development is on a firmer footing.
Socialism means a new individuality. There are three reasons for this:
- There is not the pressures to conform when there is no one with special power over you. You can't be penalised for your views or your behavior.
- You are more of an individual because you are able to fully develop and exercise all your abilities and talents. This means being a fully functioning individual.
- Full development of your abilities and talents also means full development of your differences, because we have different strengths and limitations.
As well as a new individuality there is also a new belonging. Being a full player, having a shared prosperity and having healthy relations with other people means feeling at home, belonging. We are no longer alienated from society and others. However, it is not the old belonging of traditional pre-capitalist society. The old belonging made the individual simply an organic part of society whose life was mapped out for them by such things as their class, gender, family ties or religious obligations. The old belonging was also to a limited group - family, clan, village - to the exclusion of other groups and of humanity as a whole.
The new belonging is an autonomous belonging that balances the fact that we both need to control our own lives and also meet our needs through other people. It is also in conformity with global fraternity. This belonging is also critical in motivating people to work for the common good and to use resources efficiently.
The fundamental change in people and in their relationships also means the elimination of various social pathologies.
- Crime will be less of a problem because people who would otherwise be criminals have better options because of their new role as co-owners of the means of production. Also they feel that they belong to society and have greater empathy for other people.
- In the case of behavioural disorders, these will be reduced as a natural consequence of the better conditions we've been discussing and our increasing knowledge of human psychology.