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Government & Politics   >   Socialism

Origins of Socialism

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In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College London) thinks about the history of socialism from its origins to the present day. We begin in the first module with the French Revolution which set the European precedent for political revolution before moving on to survey writers of the ‘utopian socialist’ tradition which emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the second module, we think about the life, work, and impact of Karl Marx who theorised that capitalism would inevitably bring about its own demise in its creation of a revolutionary industrial proletariat. We then consider how the failure of this revolution to materialise caused a ‘crisis’ for socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and reflect on some of the theories as to why this was the case. In the fourth module, we turn to the first successful socialist revolution to occur – that of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in October 1917 – and chart the history of Russian socialism until its huge territorial gains by the end of the Second World War. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the global rise of socialism after 1945 in Asia, Africa, and Central America, before examining the sudden collapse of the Soviet edifice between 1989-91 and the resurgence of socialist movements today linked to a critique of globalisation, climate change, and cultural hegemony.

Origins of Socialism

In this module, we think about the origins of socialism, focusing in particular on: (i) the importance of the French Revolution which, whilst not itself a socialist revolution, inspired political radicals such as Gracchus Babeuf to imagine both a model socialist future and the means for arriving there; (ii) the widespread conservative reaction to the French Revolution and the suppression of socialism in the decades after the Congress of Vienna in 1815; (iii) ‘utopian socialism’ and its supporters such as Robert Owen who envisaged and sometimes actually created ‘model villages’ which would foster socialist political organisation; (iv) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s critique of utopian socialism for excessive idealism.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Jennings, J. (2019, September 26). Socialism - Origins of Socialism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Socialism – Origins of Socialism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,


Prof. Jeremy Jennings

Prof. Jeremy Jennings

King's College London