Studying Socialism | Ohio Wesleyan University


Studying socialism

Ohio Wesleyan English Teacher to Discuss Karl Marx’s “English Utopia” on October 27

By Ohio Wesleyan University

DELAWARE, Ohio – Mark Allison, Ph.D., professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, will discuss “Karl Marx’s English Utopia” when he presents the Benjamin T. Spencer 2021-2022 Lecture sponsored by the English Department at the ‘OWU.

A member of the Ohio Wesleyan Faculty since 2007, Allison will speak at 4:10 p.m. on October 27 in the Bayley Room inside the Beeghly Library, 43 Rowland Ave., Delaware. Admission is free and face covers are mandatory regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Allison, Associate Professor of English, specializes in the literature and culture of 19th century Britain. His research interests include utopian literature and theory; socialism, the political culture of the working class and Marxism; and the British novel.

His recently published book, “Imagining Socialism: Aesthetics, Anti-politics, and Literature in Britain, 1817-1918”, forms the basis of his next presentation. The book explores the intersections of socialism and literature in the 19e century, with particular emphasis on their common antipathy to institutional politics.

“Most people think of socialism to mean great government and state control,” Allison said. “But all of the founders of socialism had a bad opinion of politics, which they associated with partisanship, corruption and unnecessary wars. This was especially true in Britain, which, like America, has a long history of distrust of centralized authority.

“Socialists were mainly interested in what they called ‘social’ rather than ‘political’ reform,” he continued. “They thought that if you wanted to make society fairer, you had to focus on places like the workplace, the school and the local community. By transforming the constituent elements of civil society, you could promote cooperation instead of competition, leading to social harmony. Over time, these reforms would reduce the scope of institutional policy, or even replace it altogether. “

Although Allison’s book deals with the British tradition of 19th-century socialism, it does address the concerns of the day: growing economic inequality, exasperation at political polarization and deadlock, and the surprising resurgence of interest in socialism among Millennials and Generation Z.

“When I started researching this book, socialism was not on the contemporary radar,” Allison said. “Then the Great Recession of 2007-2008 happened and things started to snowball. Bernie Sanders ran two unexpected presidential campaigns, and Jeremy Corbyn had his five-year tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Newspapers have started to publish opinion polls showing that young people have more favorable views on socialism than on capitalism. Suddenly, what I considered a very specialized subject no longer seemed to me specialized at all. “

What does Allison want readers to take away from her book?

“First of all, I believe in the intrinsic value of literature and literary analysis,” he said. “The backbone of this book is the close examination of the works of great 19th century writers, some famous, others unjustly forgotten. “Beyond that, I will quote the last words of my introduction: ‘It would be foolish to believe that a literary study of 19th century British socialism could open the door to utopia. But it would be vanity to think that the struggles of so many intelligent, committed and well-meaning men and women have nothing to teach us today.

Learn more about Allison and Ohio Wesleyan’s English Department at owu.edu/English.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate specializations and participates in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and holistic perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world contexts. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the “Colleges That Change Lives” book and is on the US News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.


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