In short: Within the fundamental model of societal growth, does socialism only follow after capitalism, or is socialism philosophically capable of standing alone as a principle ideology during the consutruction of a society?

Long form: In a hypothetical pre-society, 3-5 people of the same plot of land equipped with only the knowledge of sticks and stones, band together to mark the initiation of a society with the goal to reproduce and explore/innovate within science, geography, literature, economics, manufacturing, ect., to establish an infrastructure of societal growth that would be fundamental to the underlying success of the advanced society their progeny find themselves playing video games in. For simplicity, let's say the growth/advancement of the society followed a sigmoidal trend over 1000 years, where extreme growth was preceded and succeeded by a relative plateau:

During societal development, would centralized socialism ever be favored to secure equality of outcome for each individual, at the expense of progress (natural selection by societal contribution) and available utilities (individual cost/benefit of food, water, attention, ect.)?

Or, would capitalism, as a vehicle for 'natural selection by societal contribution', inherently be required for societal establishment up until the second plateauing of the society's growth, in which only then higher degrees of socialism could be implemented?

Revised: (at the request to narrow the scope)
Can socialism be a principle ideology during the growth of society; or does capitalism always precede socialism?

*socialism def: individuals and businesses own the means of production, socialize the profits to ensure principled outcome equality of citizens.

*societal growth def: In the context of endogenous growth theory; growth curve is positively sigmoidal in the example indicating non-sustainability of high-growth phase.

*note: I understand my question may solicit some opinion; though I do not see any material addressing this question anywhere on the web (perhaps I'm missing it); so I do apologize as I cannot guarantee succinct factual answers despite the potential validity of the question.

  • 1
    In the marx's theory of history, there are more stages than primitive/capitalist/socialist. There is also slaver society and feudalism (between primitive and capitalist). The fact that the october revolution happened in Tsarist Russia, more feudal and less industrialised than any other european country made some people reconsider their predictions. Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 19:47
  • @user4012 & user5751924 I appreciate the responses, while I do understand that a degree of socialism would inevitably result from successful capitalism; I cannot find anything in greater detail other than a suggestion/prediction by Marx that communal land ownership would suffice as a means to transform a primeval society directly into a communistic society (without a prior stage of capitalism). In fact, there is nothing further, other than authoritative bias, that substantiates the validity of Marx's claim; which may indicate a fundamental capitalistic requirement prior to socialism.
    – Aaron43
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    It might be worth checking some of the historical Socialist alternatives to Marx State Socialism. Namely: Kropotkin, Bakunin or Proudhon. Also notice that historically Capitalism as we know it came after the rise of bourgeoisie (by opposition to nobility). This is important because the very notion of ownership has evolved throughout time. Current social democracies acknowledge your ownership over a portion of you salary. The rest is communal.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 12:08
  • socialism can only function in a post scarcity economy, until you get to that point you need mechanisms of the market to produce goods and services and to make sure they get into the right hands. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 13:17
  • 1
    @Aaron43 Capitalism is a fairly modern economic system. You seem to be describing the simple act of trading. If you state that the act of trading is capitalism than you'll fall into redundancies like: every family is an act of communism. Its going to be pretty difficult to determine which comes first. History is filled with different economic systems, most of them involved trading, only some of them involved capital, private ownership, price systems, and competitive markets (and some of those are even labeled socialists). I don't think labeling all under the word capitalism is helpful.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 8:03

2 Answers 2


According to some socialist and communist philosophies, a stage of capitalism may be required, at least for underdeveloped countries.

This is called stagism / two-stage theory. Proponents are for example stalinists or maoists (or early social democrats).

The opposite idea is sometimes called permanent revolution and is supported by trotskyists.

Marx and Engels made it clear that they think that there may at least be some circumstances in which a capitalist stage is not required:

Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer Tim, I appreciate the links. I do question the functional validity of the Marx passage you provided; to my understanding socialism's reliance on dialectical materialism as a philiosophical means to stimulate societal growth conceptually undermines itself. Only a third of the per capita income variation across countries is explained by physical capital; and much of the remaining 2/3 variance is entrenched in human capital and intellectual property rights link.
    – Aaron43
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 21:25
  • Socialism's dependence on physical capital (including common ownership of land) doesn't seem to be enough to grow a capitalism-free society from scratch link (may insinuate capitalism as a requirement for functional socialism, as Marxism is materialism based; cannot be confident in this conclusion tho).
    – Aaron43
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 21:33
  • Further, in an association, it seems a non-two stage socialism economy would suppress innovation rate link, perhaps limiting societal growth (but again, not a statement in solid confidence of causality). In short, I would really like to identify if it is conceptually possible, when accounting for all endogenous growth factors, if a non-two stage socialistic society could ever outpace the growth of captialistic society (therefore discrediting the requirement for capitalism).
    – Aaron43
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 21:35
  • Can you please edit to explain, as I do not understand, how Stalin reconciled two stage theory with his rejection of Lenin's New Economic Plan? The latter seems to fit within a two-stage model, but by rejecting it, it seems like Stalin is implied to have also rejected the two-stage model? Similar issue with Mao and his agrarian inclinations?
    – user8398
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 11:02

Social democracies use progressive policies to redistribute wealth and use regulation to oversee capitalism, so arguably they don't have a problem with capitalism (apart from when it causes crises of various kinds).

Communism, as Marx theorised it, is what comes after Capitalism; he didn't suppose this would happen until pretty much every nation in the world has been touched by it; one could argue that globalisation is exactly this. One of his theses was that it was driven partly by technology and partly by commodification.

Political communism is what occurred in the former Soviet Union & China, and is more like state capitalism than communism per se; in fact it's very difficult to say exactly what it is since Marx didn't say what exactly it would be.

  • "state capitalism" sounds like some Orwell's newspeak to me. Soviet Union and China implemented real socialism.
    – user14816
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:20
  • 2
    No @Tlen . Neither the Soviet Union or China have ever implemented "real" Socialism. In fact they've failed some of its most basic precepts. For future reference Communism implies the absence of state (it is a form of anarchism); The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not really a democracy; And State Capitalism is a system were the state has commercial activity with intention of profit (not that uncommon, USA included).
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:46
  • 1
    @Tlen ... brainwashing,... Sure, except for the fact that I actually linked sources in my comments. Unlike you. Soviet and China both implemented totalitarian regimes, both claiming to be socialist, communist, popular, republic, etc. None of them actually achieved that. Social-Democracy is by far the movement that came closer to it and its by far the most common in western democracies (social provision within a capitalist framework). Also here is a list of public owned companies by country. Hopefully an eye opener.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 8:04
  • 1
    @Tlen the articles are from Wikipedia. Its a public access encyclopedia and multiple persons participate in each of the articles. And just to get some things straight, I'm not a proponent of Socialism, I just make an attempt at understanding things before actually give one liner conclusions about it. There is no "Socialist" conspiracy here (neither from me or Wikipedia). Capitalism is an economic system and if you were to use your own definition for it you would quickly arrive to the conclusion that there are no Capitalist nations in the world (since "all" of them have state owned businesses).
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 9:05
  • 1
    Oh and another thing that is really, really important. Social democracy is just a political philosophy. It basically says: everyone can do business but the state has to guarantee things such as education, healthcare, equality, and so on. Every single western democracy has this, or similar, type of system (some more, some less) one way or another. Its pragmatic and easy to implement. Also Social-Democracy is different from Democratic Socialism. And neither fit into your (once again) "one line" definition of it.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 9:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .