Russell Arben Fox and "Pym" have left good and thoughtful comments in defense of a certain understanding of socialism, in response to my post "Further Thoughts." I've replied to them there in the comment section, but since it's MY blawg (note the assertion of ownership), I reserve the option of turning a comment into a posting. Which I do here, below:
Russell and Pym raise good questions here: it's very easy in modern America, and particularly in the wake of the catastrophe of the Soviet experiment, to dismiss socialism as an evil not worthy of consideration. Russell is right that Marx was a keen observer of the destruction that capitalism wrought upon traditional society, as expressed most eloquently in the opening passages of the Communist Manifesto (one of my favorite passages in all of political theory). Still, we need to understand that Marx was not so much lamenting this destruction (as Russell and I might) as recognizing that capitalism succeeded in obliterating traditional cultures and thereby opening the possibility of the awareness of an internationally shared interest of workers (proletariat) - and hence the opening line, "Workers of the World, Unite!" The destruction of cultures and traditions was the necessary first step that preceded the possibility of true communism, and thus we can see even more clearly that Marx relies upon, even as he rejects, the work of Locke, Smith and other early modern liberals.
[I would note that one can see great evidence for such post-Lockeanism in the thought of some contemporary political theorists who ardently embrace the label of socialism, understanding it to be a post-liberal condition. Thus, in our common opposition to liberalism, we share some eerily similar views that can at first glance be confused. For instance, in the same way that people like me reject the notion that Republicans can be considered to be conservative, such socialists similarly reject the notion that Obama can be regarded as a man of the Left. There is actually a high degree of agreement with those of us outside the current liberal configuration that what is needed is a politics that goes beyond the classic liberal conception of human nature as self-interested and driven by appetite. Still, further reflection helps one see why distinctions between Left and Right remain important for all those similarities, since just such contemporary socialists look ardently to the State to become the voice of the people - to make us one, and in and through the State we will achieve a transcendence of our self-interest. Traditionalists, particularly those based in the Christian tradition, soundly reject this notion - though they are more accepting of the idea of law and morality that restrains the full blown freedom of the markets - because they accept the fundamental Christian understanding that the State can no more be an idol than the market, and we are best served by moderating our appetites in moderate political and social settings. For a telling example of this Left socialism, see some of Jodi Dean's online writings, such as here and here , some of which echoes similar concerns that a traditionalist/Distributivist might express, but which goes in a very different direction. Indeed, she condemns a turn toward localism here, which she considers to be "deeply anti-socialist, anti-collectivist, and anti-cooperative. It's another version of every man for himself, in effect, a deeper, more estranged distillation of neoliberalism"].
"Pym" (and I assume Russell) are rightly drawn to an alternative understanding of socialism, mainly its pre-modern Christian form. I can't really object to that either, though I think it's one thing to admire these forms of small scale local communes (based on common ownership), and another to enact them. Efforts to enact them (particularly in modernity) have proven to be fanciful and short-lived. Indeed, it could be argued (and I would argue) that truths articulated by Christianity itself point to the impossibility of achieving a truly selfless small-scale commune: even on such a small scale, we still tend to prefer our own, and ultimately ourselves. That is simply part of being human after the Fall. Recognizing this, there is a strong justification for ownership and private property (for much the same grounds suggested by Aristotle - we care more about that which is ours, and that care will be manifested publically), centered largely around the family and small-scale ownership. The model here would be along the lines of Chesterton's and Belloc's Distributivism, that is, widespread ownership in the form of small-scale family-based and community-centered businesses, and mainly based in agriculture. I think this combines the insight of capitalism that we work hard when a form of personal satisfaction is possible (we work on behalf of "our own"), and socialism, that we need to attend to the concerns and demands of the common weal. Modernity set these two options at odds with each other (in the forms of Locke and Marx); our task is to bring them more closely together.