In their heads
The statist kind of socialism did not work out well during the twentieth century. Today’s neo-socialism centers around the concept of “democracy at work:”
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An “economy” could be simple and direct, i.e., people in a community working together to produce and distribute life’s necessities. In modern society the function is organized in a way such that institutions referred to as ‘economic enterprises’ produce goods and/or deliver services.
Economic enterprises can be owned and controlled in one of five ways:
1. the stock and/or all assets are owned privately by a person (entrepreneur) or family or investment team;
2. the stock is offered for sale to the public (ownership is “public,” but in almost all cases controlling interest, i.e., the majority or large plurality of the voting-privilege stock is in the hands of a person, a family, or an investment team … so in essence the enterprise is owned and controlled privately);
3. nationalized (owned and controlled by the national government);
4. by a state government or a municipal government or a community;
5. by the employees of the enterprise.
Neo-socialism disdains #1 and #2. Having learned the lessons of twentieth-century socialist implementation attempts re: the inadvisability of over-statification of the economy, it advocates #3 in very rare instances (only where a national scale seems imperative — like, for example, with the macro-transportation network or the energy or telecommunication grids).
It’s OK with #4, though we see few instances of such.
Its preferred paradigm is ownership and control by the employees of the enterprise. It says there are many extant successful examples of such already, but there really aren’t very many. It hates the idea of employers and employees. It asserts that the employment of labor is inherently exploitative (profit comes from paying labor less than the value of what labor produces). It thinks that employees should want to democratically own and control enterprises. Those are ideological concepts in the worst sense of the word.
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The original flawed socialism was too universalist in its perspective and it failed to appreciate the importance of the issue of scale. Neo-socialism tends to retain those flaws. For example, it adheres to the nutso idea that “we the people” (of a mega-scale country like the U.S.) can somehow democratically own and control the national economy.
There has developed a better, more green-oriented, kind of socialism. Even among eco-socialists, some continue to be misguidedly influenced by Marxism. But some are finding their way to a paradigm that has the potential to be realistic in all aspects — process of change, agency of change, timeframe, end-goal: