The Anti-Socialist Accusation: ‘This Is the Politics of Envy’

Another argument that is frequently made by Conservatives against Socialism, or any form of state intervention to the reduce the power of the very rich, and transfer some of their material wealth to the poor, is the accusation that it ‘is the politics of envy’. The attitude here is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the system. Rather, the fault lies with its opponents, who are acting out of personal malice and discontent. It’s another argument that has been around for nearly eighty years in some or another.

Brady in his book The Structure of German Fascism, published in 1937, also cites similar forms of this argument in the section on the rise of Fascism and Fascist arguments around the world. These don’t attribute attacks on capitalism to envy. Instead they trace it to an inferiority complex and personal, psychological failings. The attitude is still the same, however.

The examples Brady cites of this line of argument are the following

“One of the most common symptoms of an inferiority complex or of personal failure is the desire to change the social order, usually in one’s immediate environment, often in the world at large. The youngsters, suffering from personal failure, often want to change their families, not themselves. The student who fails in his studies wants to change his teachers or the marking system, not himself. The employee who fails to get the desired salary wants to improve his employer, not himself. The worker, unable to get or hold a position, wants to change the system generally”.

Link, The Return of Religion, p. 130.

“It is known that an adult of insufficient social experience will not be merely socially maladjusted; he will also be found using inferior logical techniques.”

Mayo, The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilisation, p. 163.

These aren’t arguments so much as attempts to block further debate. The simple answer is that a resentment of the vast power of the extremely rich, and anger at their enjoyment of vast wealth and luxury while others suffer extreme poverty, comes from an entirely reasonable sense of outrage at a viciously unjust social and economic system. Despite the claims since the 19th century that capitalism gives people the opportunity to better themselves, it is still a system that condemns millions to horrific poverty through no fault of their own.

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One Response to “The Anti-Socialist Accusation: ‘This Is the Politics of Envy’”

  1. patricknelson750 Says:

    If Capitalism isn’t truly the politics of envy (and it main cause – greed) then I don’t know what is. The rich include many of the most avaricious and envious people in the world.

    It is not envy that inspires people to call for a system in which there is a more fair distribution of wealth and where social, economic, educational and political opportunity exists for all. It is justice.

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