Updated: May 24, 2022
Socialism brings to mind an area of concern that individualism ignores: the social. This is actually a rather recent “discovery.” The first course in sociology in the United States was taught at the University of Kansas by Frank Blackmar in 1890. You do not find a sociological perspective in the Enlightenment, or the Roman empire, or in the Bible. So maybe one should be generous to those who don’t take socialism seriously (except for their social security of course).
So, what is a social perspective? It focuses on the context in which we live: our social worlds. Like the world of sports or the world of dance. When individuals enter and participate in these social worlds, they behave according to the patterns and expectations of that world. We all do that. In fact, we always exist in some social world.
Because the idea of the social is fairly new, some people mistake “social evolution” for “human evolution.” Jeremy Rifkin’s book on the evolution of empathy is a good example. He sees changes in empathy in Western culture as a process of “human evolution.” The fact is that humans, as a species, reached their current state of human evolution about 60 thousand years ago when some of us left Africa. Black was the original color. Changes in skin color occurred because of social evolution, not human evolution. The difference between white and black skin are social differences that have been recorded by epigenetic markers that now affect our biological characteristics. These epigenetic markers do not affect our humanity. Furthermore, how we think about skin color depends on the social worlds in which we live.
So, the advantage of socialism is that it opens up this vast area concerning our social differences, our understanding of them, and what we should do to repair the injustices embedded in them.