The Style and Mythology of Socialism: Socialist Idealism, 1871-1914  book cover
1st Edition

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

ISBN 9781138738355
Published October 12, 2017 by Routledge
338 Pages 79 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

1. Concerning Socialists  2. Cultural Traditions and Mythic Politics  3. The Cultural Style of Socialism – Chronology: Socialist idealism  4. The Community of the Carpenter’s Son: The Knights of Labor I  5. Body and Symbol: The Knights of Labor II  6. Myth and Utopi  7. Socialist Beauty  8. Ideology and Care of the Soul  9. Socialist Idealism: its Character and Fall  Afterword

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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