The capitalist market instructs us to an individualism that undercuts an understanding that we are social beings whose lives are interconnected. We are told that there are no collective solutions to collective problems. That indeed, problems are due to individual failings. This is the neoliberal ideology that has shaped public consciousness for the last four decades.
Yet in spite of that, a counter consciousness has arisen, particularly among the young – an identity formed against the prevailing individualism. It is an awareness that such problems as climate change cannot be solved by individual action, that the ever increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is not the result of the great talent of the rich, that the poverty of the many is not deserved. Rather, we all live in a social world interconnected materially and morally and the idea that we all are separate and on our own is a fantasy. This is the wellspring from which a socialist consciousness has sprouted.
This is what philosopher Ronald Aronson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Wayne State University, has argued in a widely discussed article in Tikkun Magazine. He will share his perspective with the Center for Global Justice. He asserts “today’s socialism is not only about economics or the lack of future prospects, but a stance, an orientation, a change in consciousness, an identity formed against the prevailing individualism.” In this he breaks from the conventional view that socialism is state power in the hands of the working class. Indeed socialism today is not even primarily oriented towards workers as workers.
The spirit of socialism today is expressed in Aronson’s earlier book We: Reviving Social Hope. There he argued it is in social movements that “we become members of a larger entity, drawing power from it, having responsibility to it, and experiencing ourselves within it.” It is this sense of being part of a larger collectivity that underlies the socialist idea.