Are there Ancient Roots to Socialism?

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[[File:BushmenSan.jpg|thumbnail|Figure 1. Example of a Kalahari Bushmen, which are sometimes described as relatively egalitarian societies. ]]
Since Karl Marx and others began to advocate for societies to develop more equitable economic systems in the form of socialism and even communism, there have been those that advocated that capitalism and, by extension, economic and social inequality evident in societies reflect a deviation from natural or even original human societies. Evidence for more equal societies is often difficult to determine in the distant past, but there have been arguments that social and economic inequality we are witnessing is more recent.
====Early Forms of Socialism?====
Perhaps the most "equitable" forms of societies are often hunter-gatherer societies. Such societies, ostensibly, often do not display any major social hierarchy (Figure 1). Even if there is a "leader," of the group, often social power is limited and can be easily reversed. Wealth differences are also limited between members of such societies. Based on this, and archaeological evidence, some archaeologists and historians have argued that a form of socialism or at least classless societies existed in the distant past (i.e., more than 7-8,000 years ago in most parts of the world). In fact, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles had noticed this and advocated that hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian and represent a type of primitive communism.<ref>For more on hunter-gatherer egalitarianism, see: Fitzhugh, B. (2003) <i>The evolution of complex hunter-gatherers: archaeological evidence from the North Pacific</i>. Interdisciplinary contributions to archaeology. New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenun Publishers.</ref>
One possibility is that, although agricultural societies may have fostered greater inequality, a type of egalitarian and, even a form of socialist societies, did exist in a type of "vertical egalitarianism." In these cases, kinship and social networks were likely not equal for these communities, which were often larger as they utilized agriculture. However, on the surface, there may have been limited power or no real differences in power between family heads. Wealth may have been similar among families and families would share resources, including farming equipment and land. In essence, such societies display hierarchy, in that not all members are the same and power is unequal; however, authority would be limited in that no central leader or wealthier individuals can easily emerge. What could have limited power for any central authority is that population was still relatively limited and larger groups may divide or fission if power accrued too greatly.<ref>For more on vertical egalitarianism, see: Frangipane, M. (2007) Different types of egalitarian societies and the development of inequality in early Mesopotamia. <i>World Archaeology</i>. [Online] 39 (2), 151–176. Available from: doi:10.1080/00438240701249504.</ref>
====Later Developments in Socialism====[[File:BushmenSan1914 Panoramic View of Iroquois.jpg|thumbnail|Figure 12. Example of a Kalahari Bushmen, which are sometimes described as relatively egalitarian societiesIroquois from around 1914. ]] ==Later Developments in Socialism== 
With the emergence of towns and cities, it has been commonly seen that classes begin to emerge more clearly and this type of lifestyle spreads in many regions of the world. However, there were still societies that were relatively egalitarian. Nevertheless, all of these relatively equal societies were often small, often hunter-gatherer groups such as some Native American societies or those in Africa and South America. Examples of agriculturally-based egalitarian or something more similar to socialist societies, that is societies with a collective form of rule and ownership of resources, are very rare.
There is evidence that ancient societies often debated wealth inequality and how much should socialist ideals, or what we would call such ideals, be integrated in society. Both Plato and Aristotle advocated checks to fully market-based societies, as they felt a more communal approach would better harness societies potential and limit dangers to instability. Sparta in ancient Greece has, at times, been seen as a type of socialist society that treated citizens as equals and that even the leaders lived austere lives that were not that different from average citizens. There is some truth to this, as Sparta's ideals were reflected by values of limiting the self and honor for the greater benefit, but this often had to do with military preparation than a peacetime economic system. The fact the state was often in perpetual war may have meant that it had to develop an austere approach to its economy; individuals could not flaunt wealth when sacrifice to the state was required during political difficult times.<ref>For more on Sparta, Aristotle and Plato in regards to equality and class, see: Barker, E. (1956) <i>The political thought of Plato and Aristotle</i>. New York, NY, Dover Publ.</ref>
[[File:1914 Panoramic View of Iroquois.jpg|thumbnail|Figure 2. Iroquois from around 1914.]] ====Modern Socialism====
In many respects, socialism is a modern concept, as no large-scale society that is agriculturally-based in the ancient or more recent past can be called socialist. However, examples of the Iroquois and collective farming communities indicates a form of consensus building and limitation of power and wealth accumulation is possible by pooling resources. In fact, in those cases, where societies tend to best pool resources, it is evident that these societies also formed a type of democratic system in that consensus building had to be developed through agreement or voting. The main problem has likely been that it is hard to have a large-scale society that is socialist, in its true sense, because large-scale societies are often held together by power structures where individuals had to look towards or depend on a large centre. In effect, society is large-scale because there are people who are dependent on others through economic or power relationships. If that was not the case, very likely small communities that could potentially disassociate from a central authority could more easily emerge.<ref>For more on the concepts of socialism and its history, see: Jeremy Jennings (2003) <i>Socialism. Critical concepts in political science </i>. London ; New York, Routledge.</ref>
For modern states, what is intended by socialism is not so much a classes society, even if that is what is stated as the ideal by some states or their ruling systems, but rather there is an extensive social welfare program that includes health care, transport, access to work, housing, and other aspects where resources are shared. Among relatively more effective so-called socialist states are not fully socialist but are forms of combined socialist-capitalist societies. Examples include Denmark, Sweden, Canada, and New Zealand, where these countries have wide ranging welfare systems that lower wealth disparities between classes.<ref>For more on the modern examples of large-scale societies that have some socialist features, see: Busky, D.F. (2000) <i>Democratic socialism: a global survey</i>. Westport, Conn, Praeger.</ref>
To a large extent, outside of small-scale hunter-gatherer groups, there never has been true socialist or even communist societies. Agriculture introduces inequality, as labor and access to land often become unequal as these resources are not equal without constant intervention by the community. Even when there is relative equality among agricultural societies, such as vertical egalitarian societies, these societies were not very large, often about the size of a village (e.g., 1000 individuals). Inequality to resources also exits, although this is relatively limited compared to most modern examples of wealth. From what is evident, power structures that held together larger-scale societies often meant dependencies were need to create large states. The presence of power attracted people who held that power, whether through wealth or through the military. Socialist based societies, when they have existed in a true form, have often been more focused in developing welfare systems and social safety nets that attempted to prevent deep poverty or over accumulation of wealth and power in a limited few.
====References====<references/> {{Contributors}}[[Category:Socialism]][[Category:Economic History]][[Category:Philosophy]][[Category:Political History]]