All material human needs and desires are satisfied by two forms of production--agriculture and manufacturing. In the economies of North America, Western Europe, and Japan, these two means of production are mostly privately owned. When Communism dominated Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, most of the means of production in those countries were owned and operated by the state. A theory that advocates state ownership of the means of production, or a system based on such a theory, is called socialism.
Socialism originated in France and England at about the same time, but it took different courses in each country. The most complex development was in France, where several different schools emerged. From France the doctrines spread into Germany, where they were absorbed by Karl Marx. In time he came to dominate the whole movement. After him socialism would always be defined as either Marxist or non-Marxist.
Most forms of socialism could be classified as either reform or revolutionary socialism. The chief reform movements were utopian socialism, and fabian socialism. These movements called for the gradual evolution of the economy from capitalist production to a system of worker or state ownership. .
Utopian socialism has come to suggest the ideal human society. Utopian socialists believe that it is possible to create a harmonious, cooperative human society in which everyone is an owner of private property--that is, the means of production of wealth.
Utopian socialism originated in France with Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. In England its founder was Robert Owen.
There were few attempts to make utopian socialism work in Europe, but there were many experiments undertaken in the United States during the 19th century. They were small communities, such as Owen's New Harmony, Ind., that attempted self-sufficiency based on agriculture and traditional crafts. Nearly all of them failed.
Democratic socialists expected the gradual evolution of society from capitalism to the worker state.