chapter  6
9 Pages

From Capitalism to Socialism?

Towards the end of the First World War, Mommsen (1974, p. 58) notes, ‘many people in Germany discussed whether the state-controlled war economy would gradually lead to a socialist system’.1 In this debate Weber took the view that while the elimination of private capitalism is ‘theoretically possible….it will certainly not be brought about by the present war’ (Weber, 1918a). A quarter of a century later, in the Second World War, Schumpeter was arguing that the ‘march into socialism’ is well under way and ‘a socialist form of society will inevitably emerge from an equally inevitable decomposition of capitalist society’ (1942, p. 409),2 while Hayek (1944) similarly drew attention to the strength of the movement towards socialism and uttered a shrill warning against the ultimate consequences of following this ‘road to serfdom’. These accounts are all related, in one way or another, to Marx’s theory of capitalist development, which-it has generally been held-asserts the necessity of a transition to socialism, determined by the contradictions within capitalism itself .3 We have now to consider how far the economic, social and political changes of the twentieth century in Western societies do manifest, if not an ineluctable process of transition to a socialist society, at least a general tendency towards that end.