What is the history of socialism in the United States
Socialism, in the United States at least, has often been seen as a negative term or been associated with other countries, usually dictatorships or Marxist states. Nevertheless, socialism has a long political history in the United States and has been, at times, influential in American politics.
Early Socialism in the United States
The earliest forms of socialism are evident in the early 19th century with the establishment of what was called 'Utopian' Socialism, a form of socialism that focused on establishing communities that had a goal to develop communities that functioned with minimal social ills through social action. Many such communities were established in the United State, mostly by European settlers, who had developed their ideas in Europe but attempted to practice their community beliefs in the United States because it was seen as a place that afforded the space and political opportunity to create new communities. Brook Farm in Massachusetts and town of Bethel, Missouri are two such examples. Some of these communities were inspired by Christian beliefs and socialism, while others were inspired by German Idealism philosophy, such as that supported by Immanuel Kant, and the Romanticism movement in Europe which viewed as individuals and institutions having been corrupted by society. This developed into the Transcendentalism movement in the United States during the 1820s-1830s. Brook Farm was one of their well-known communities, established in 1841 by George Ripley, that once included Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Emerson. The Transcendentalists were influenced by Charles Fourier, a prominent French Socialist thinker of the Utopian movement. At Brook Farm, the community attempted to pool their labor and resources so that intellectual and scientific pursuits could be followed by the community. By 1849, the community was financially insolvent, as the farming used for communal money proved unprofitable, and the farm itself was sold.
Edward Bellamy, a relatively unknown author, wrote what would become perhaps the second highest selling book in the United States in the 19th century, surpassed only by Uncle Tom's Cabin. The book (Looking Backward: 2000–1887) describes a socialist United State in the year 2000. The book was still part of the Utopian Socialism ideals but now began to tackle what would become core aspects of socialism as it discussed labor and production, including equal distribution of goods across the United States. The hero of the novel wakes up in 2000 to see a United States that is in a socialist Utopian state where everyone retires at 45.