Introduction to Socialism and Individual Rights

The Editors

DOES SOCIALISM expand individual rights—and why? An assumption common to all socialist thought is that the meaning of individual rights and freedom is harshly constrained, under capitalism, by a system in which many must work to provide the good life for the few. This leaves open, however, the question of what importance socialism—conceived as a society without exploitation, organized democratically for the common good—will attach to individual rights as a part of that common good.

Both of the following essays, arguing from different standpoints, agree that individual rights are indeed of great significance for socialism. The first presents the claim that such rights are of central and intrinsic value, and should be so recognized within the socialist project. The second argues against conceiving these rights “timelessly,” or apart from the context in which they are to be exercised, but rather that a socialist conception of individual rights flows from their importance to the “common good” as socialists see it.

It should go without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that these articles are published to contribute to the process of rethinking within the left, and not to represent the “line” of this magazine.

November-December 1990, ATC 29