1st Edition

The Style and Mythology of Socialism: Socialist Idealism, 1871-1914

By Stefan Arvidsson Copyright 2018
    338 Pages
    by Routledge

    338 Pages 79 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Arguably no modern ideology has diffused as fast as Socialism. From the mid-nineteenth century to the last quarter of the twentieth socialist ideals played a crucial part not only in the political sphere, but also influenced the way people worked and played, thought and felt, designed and decorated, hoped and yearned. By proposing general observations on the relationship between socialism, imagination, myth and utopia, as well as bringing the late nineteenth century socialist culture – a culture imbued with Biblical narratives, Christian symbols, classic mythology, rituals from freemasonry, Viking romanticism, and utopian speculations – together under the novel term ‘socialist idealism’, The Style and Mythology of Socialism: Socialist Idealism, 1871–1914 draws attention to the symbolic, artistic and rhetorical ways that socialism originally set the hearts of people on fire.


    1. Concerning Socialists

    – Socialism from the perspective of history of religions

    – A modern ideology

    – Nature of socialism

      • Class and economic order
      • Moral ideals
      • Existential ideals

    2. Cultural Traditions and Mythic Politics

    – Political culture

    – Romantic and classicist socialism

    – The mythic politics of socialism

      • Biblical mythology
      • Medievalist mythology
      • Primitivist mythology
      • Classical mythology
      • The mythologies of Faunans och monsterology
      • Mythic language


    Socialist idealism

    3. The Cultural Style of Socialism

    – Chronology: Socialist idealism

    4. The Community of the Carpenter’s Son: The Knights of Labor I

    – A secret socialist order

    – Medievalism

    – Fraternalism

    – Jesus, the carpenter’s son

    5. Body and Symbol: The Knights of Labor II

    – The secrets of the great seal

    – Holy toil

    – The philosopher’s stone

    – The thumb

    – Culture and leisure

    – Understanding the Knights

    6. Myth and Utopi

    – William Morris and romantic marxismen

    – Classicist utopi: Bellamy’s Looking backward

    – Romantic utopi: Morris’ News from Nowhere

    – Fantastic and political stories

    – Ideology and utopi

    – The parlor of life

    7. Socialist Beauty

    – Walter Crane, the artist of socialism

    – The work of present and future times

    – Reflections concerning ergology

    8. Ideology and Care of the Soul

    – Socialist critique of religion

    – Humanism and the religion of humanity

    – The religion of socialism

    – Ideology, power and resistance

    – Socialist care of souls

    – Note on "religion"

    9. Socialist Idealism: its Character and Fall

    – A characteristic

    – From fraternal order to trade union

    – From fraternal order to think-tank

    – From co-producer of culture to consumer of culture

    – From utopia to dystopia and post-politics

    – Fascism

    – From idealism to modernism

    – From idealism to the mythology of fascism

    – From christian to areligious socialism



    Stefan Arvidsson is Professor in the History of Religions at Linnæus University, Sweden.

    "In this remarkable and original work, Arvidsson (history of religion, Linnæus Univ., Sweden) argues that the history of socialism, or indeed of modern times, cannot be understood without paying special attention to what he calls "socialist idealism." By this he means a strain of socialism deeply rooted in a strong ethical belief in the importance of ending the inequality that was the hallmark of industrial society. The author devotes much of the book to a discussion of two movements: the Knights of Labor in the US and the Fabian Society in the UK. Both movements had strong utopian aspirations, and both rejected the materialism of Marxism. Arvidsson gives special attention to the place of ritual and symbolism in the Knights of Labor and to the importance of artistic expression (originating in the Arts and Crafts Movement) among the Fabians. What makes this study particularly valuable is the author's re-creation of the vitality of both movements. He shows that even if the two movements failed, both represented the fervent belief that the life of the common man could be and should be improved. Indeed, this book casts fresh light on the present" - S. Bailey, Knox College, CHOICE Magazine Essential Reading